PEORIA, Unwell. (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors argued on Monday that an Illinois man who raped and murdered a Chinese language graduate pupil two years in the past ought to be executed, and referred to as on her heartbroken fiance and buddies to inform the jury in regards to the sufferer’s sort, optimistic nature.
FILE PHOTO: Steve Beckett, lawyer for the household of Yingying Zhang, arrives on the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Peoria, Illinois, U.S., June three, 2019. REUTERS/Daniel Acker/File Picture
A federal jury in Peoria, Illinois discovered Brendt Christensen, 29, responsible final month of the kidnapping and homicide of Yingying Zhang, a 26-year-old pupil on the College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The jury is now within the penalty part of the trial.
“This was not an bizarre crime,” James Nelson, a prosecutor within the U.S. Division of Justice’s capital case division, advised the jury. “It was chilly, merciless and calculated.”
Christensen’s attorneys have requested the jury to spare his life, saying he had lengthy struggled with substance abuse and psychological sickness and had a household historical past of each.
“Nobody who grew up with Brendt would have ever guessed that that is how his life would find yourself,” Julie Mind, one in all his attorneys, advised the jury. “This was a person secretly combating psychological well being his complete life.”
She confirmed the jury pictures of Christensen wearing his Boy Scouts and soccer uniforms.
The jury is being requested to resolve between the loss of life penalty and life in jail with out the potential of parole.
The sufferer’s fiance, Xiaolin Hou, advised the jury the couple met whereas undergraduates at Solar Yat-sen College in Guangzhou, China.
“She’s good, she’s courageous, she’s optimistic, she’s the perfect lady I ever met,” he stated.
Videotaped testimony by Zhang’s school buddies was additionally performed to the jury. Christensen, wearing grey pants and a grey shirt, watched the movies alongside his attorneys.
Lixha Fang stated she apprehensive for her pal’s security when she moved to america as a result of Zhang was so good to everybody.
One other pal, Ye Cai, stated when she first met Zhang of their dorm, she was struck by a “skinny, very smiley lady,” and the pair quickly turned shut buddies. She recalled Zhang was very near her household and referred to as them steadily. Listening to this, Zhang’s brother received up and left the courtroom in tears.
Cai additionally learn aloud a number of the many messages the pair swapped over WeChat, the favored Chinese language social media platform.
“How massive is the world?” Zhang wrote in one of many messages. “I’ll measure it with my toes.”
Federal prosecutors are looking for the loss of life penalty beneath U.S. kidnapping legal guidelines.
Zhang was reported lacking on June 9, 2017, two months after coming from southeastern China to review photosynthesis and crop manufacturing on the college. Her stays have by no means been discovered, however prosecutors stated her DNA was matched to blood later present in three spots inside Christensen’s bed room.
Investigators had been led to Christensen by way of surveillance video footage captured in Urbana, 130 miles (210 km) south of Chicago, that confirmed Zhang getting right into a black automobile that later was traced to Christensen.
Prosecutors stated Christensen, a one-time grasp’s pupil on the college, took Zhang to his residence, the place she fought for her life as he bludgeoned her with a baseball bat, raped her and stabbed her within the neck earlier than chopping off her head.
Earlier within the trial in U.S. District Courtroom in Peoria, prosecutors characterised Christensen as having a fascination with serial killers, together with Ted Bundy, who murdered dozens of girls throughout the 1970s and was put to loss of life in 1989.
Particulars of the crime, together with Zhang’s decapitation, had been revealed by Christensen himself in conversations along with his then-girlfriend secretly recorded for FBI brokers investigating the case earlier than his arrest, in line with trial testimony.
Reporting by Robert Chiarito; Further reporting by Gabriella Borter; Modifying by Paul Simao, Invoice Tarrant and James Dalgleish