URBANA, Ill. (WAND) - Brendt Christensen said he placed Yingying Zhang's remains in three garbage bags and threw them away in a dumpster at his apartment, representatives of Zhang's family said Wednesday.
Christensen told his attorneys he killed Zhang on June 9, 2017 and placed the bags with her remains in the dumpster the next day.
On June 12th, 2017 he placed Yingying's clothing, backpack, cell phone, books and other items into a duffel bag. He also put cleaning materials he used to try and cover up the murder into the large duffel bag. He told lawyers he placed those items in various dumpsters around town.
Attorneys representing Zhang's family revealed the details at a Wednesday morning news conference.
Christensen's attorneys first revealed the information to federal prosecutors in November 2018 through an immunity agreement, meaning, the statements and any evidence that could be derived from them could not be used in his criminal trial and sentencing proceedings. Because of the agreement, this information was not released until after the trial.
"Look at the box the prosecution is in: Do they go full-bore into investigating and identifying the remains and have the defense say something at trial was derived by that and they couldn't use it against the defendant?" said attorney Steve Beckett. "Add on top of that the layer of federal regulation of landfills. We're told that's a significant problem."
Ultimately, authorities did not search the landfill for Yingying's remains, he said.
According to what the Zhang family was told, the trash pick up came on June 12th. The contents of the dumpster were reported to be taken to a private landfill in the Danville area. It is believed that the contents of the dumpster were compacted multiple times. Due to the compaction process, lawyers say Yingying's bodily remains may be as small as a cell phone.
The family was told the private landfill was being actively used and the area in which the remains would have been dumped is about half a football field in width.
During the investigation it was determined by the time Christensen's attorneys disclosed his statements to federal authorities, it would be complicated and have no certainty to find her remains.
Lawyers say to date no search of the landfill has been conducted to their knowledge. However, the Zhang family says they understand that authorities are still considering an attempt to locate her remains.
The family of Yingying says they think the most prudent thing to do is to allow the authorities to handle the situation and undertake the recovery of Yingying's remains if it is feasible.
The Zhang family says they can't vouch for the truth of the information they were provided and cant guarantee that he told the truth.
Christensen was convicted in federal court of kidnapping the visiting Chinese UI scholar from campus two years ago and killing her.
He received life in prison after the jury that convicted him could not agree on the death penalty.