PEORIA, Ill. (WAND)- A federal jury has convicted Brendt Christensen of kidnapping Yingying Zhang resulting in her death in 2017.
The jury's decision comes after a nine-day trial and more than two years after Zhang was last seen.
At trial, investigators showed surveillance video of Zhang entering a Black Saturn Astra shortly after 2 p.m. on June 9, 2017. That car matched one owned by Christensen, down to a chip out of one hubcap.
"He kidnapped her, he murdered her, he covered up his crime," prosecutor Eugene Miller told jurors in opening statements.
Christensen's attorneys agreed their client was responsible for Zhang's death, but they took issue with prosecutors' account of how that death took place. They tried to cast doubts on FBI recordings in which Christensen told his then-girlfriend that he had killed Zhang.
"I choked her for must have been ten minutes with my hands, then I released her," Christensen said on the recording. "I carried her to my bathtub. I got the bat and hit her on the head as hard as I could ... I wasn't sure if she was dead or not, so I had a knife and I stabbed her in the neck and she grabbed for it ... I chopped her head off, and I said that was the end of it."
Christensen's attorneys argue he was drunk when he made that claim. They point out that, in the same conversation, Christensen claimed to have killed twelve others, and they say investigators have found no proof that is true.
FBI investigators also reported finding DNA matching Yingying Zhang in Christensen's apartment, including on the underside of his bedroom carpeting.