CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The family of a missing UI scholar says they’re still on the difficult journey of trying to find out what happened to their loved one.
Saturday marks a year since Yingying Zhang disappeared. Her family doesn’t know any more than it did when the nightmare started.
Friends are planning a memorial service for the weekend to keep her memory alive. So much has happened the past year, but there’s still a long way to go.
It all started June 9, 2017, when Brendt Christensen is alleged to have picked her up in his black Saturn Astra. It’s the last time anyone ever saw her.
Gas station footage led police to Christensen’s apartment. Authorities say he kidnapped Zhang after searching abduction fantasies online. He’s charged with kidnapping resulting in death and faces the death penalty.
Zhang’s body has never been recovered. It’s still an open wound for her family. Her parents and boyfriend came to Champaign shortly after her disappearance. They returned to China in November for medical reasons but spoke before they left the country.
“I miss her every day.”
They say they’ll come back for Christensen’s trial, but that’s at least ten months away. In the meantime, they hope for a break in the case with the help of Christensen’s family.
“We hope that the mom and dad can talk to him or his wife can somehow get through to him and tell us where to find Yingying. We just want to bring her home.”
Friends say the memorial event is about supporting Yingying’s family and keeping her memory alive.
It’s not certain where Christensen is being held. He was in Macon County for a few months, but officials say he’s no longer there.
No one from the FBI, US Attorney’s Office, federal marshals or law enforcement agencies in several different counties could tell us where he is. His trial is set to start in April.