PEORIA, Ill. (WCIA) — Jury selection started today in the case against a former University of Illinois graduate student accused of kidnapping and killing a visiting scholar from China.
The death penalty is possible in the federal case against 29-year-old Brendt Christensen. Authorities say he tricked or forced 26-year-old Yingying Zhang into his car in June 2017. Christensen has pleaded not guilty. He told the FBI he dropped Zhang off after a few blocks. Zhang’s body hasn’t been found.
16 jurors were brought into the courtroom. Brendt Christensen was sitting with his defense team, dressed in a blue polo and khakis. Zhang’s father was also in the courtroom. He did not show any emotion.
Jury selection is expected to take about a week. Proceedings are in Peoria, a central Illinois city about 85 miles (135 kilometers) northwest of Champaign, where Zhang was studying at the university’s flagship campus and where she was last seen.
Zhang’s father, mother and brother have flown to Illinois from China for the trial.
Here is video of the family arriving at the federal courthouse.