PEORIA, Ill. (WAND)- Brendt Christensen has been found guilty of kidnapping and killing visiting Chinese UI scholar Yingying Zhang.
Jurors reached a verdict after less than two hours of deliberation.
Closing arguments ended at 11:30. It was announced at 1:30 the jury had reached a verdict.
Christensen was found guilty on three counts, kidnapping resulting in death and two counts of making false statements to the FBI.
Afterward, Zhang's family addressed reporters.
"On behalf of Yingying, our beloved daughter, and for my wife, my son and myself, I thank the jury for this step towards justice," said Ronggao Zhang, Yingying's father, in a prepared statement. "We thank the prosecutors, the University of Illinois police, the FBI, and all who helped in the investigation and trial of this case."
The family also thanked those in China and the United States who have helped them in the two years since Yingying's kidnapping.
"We hope and believe that this trial will eventually bring justice to Yingying and us," Ronggao Zhang said. "Our wish has always been to find Yingying and bring her home. We will not give up."
A jury will next have to decide whether he should receive the death penalty. Those proceedings begin on the afternoon of July 8 and will last about one and a half weeks, Judge James Shadid told jurors.
Monday morning, prosecutors began their closing arguments with the same words they used in opening statements.
"He kidnapped her, he murdered her, and he covered up his crime," said Eugene Miller. "This trial really is that straightforward."
Miller pointed to video evidence of Yingying Zhang entering Brendt Christensen's car, DNA matching Zhang in Christensen's apartment, and Christensen's own recorded statements about violently killing Zhang at his apartment.
"This was all for his own twisted benefit and dark desire," Miller said.
In addition to a charge of kidnapping resulting in death, Christensen also faced two charges of lying to FBI agents for initially saying he had been home all day on June 9, the day Zhang was seen getting into a black Saturn Astra.
Defense attorney Elisabeth Pollock again told jurors that Christensen is responsible for Zhang's kidnapping and death.
"It's Brendt's fault," Pollock said. "There's no excuse for what he did."
Pollock again took issue with the truthfulness of Christensen's recorded statement that he hit Zhang with a baseball bat, strangled her for ten minutes, stabbed her neck and cut off her head. She described those remarks as an "alcohol-fueled attempt to impress (girlfriend) Terra Bullis."
She also described Christensen as a man whose life was crumbling and who had begun associating existing violent thoughts with sex after exploring BDSM activity with Bullis.