PEORIA, Ill. (WAND)- Jurors in Brendt Christensen's case heard Friday from counselors who met with Christensen at the University of Illinois Counseling Center in March 2017.
In a survey taken at his first visit to the center, Christensen reported thoughts of suicide and thoughts of harming others.
"He observed that his thoughts of harming others became intense as he consumed alcohol," recorded an intake counselor in her notes. "He denied intent, stating that he didn't want to hurt anyone and that he did not want to go to prison."
During his first visit, prompted by his wife's request for divorce and trouble with alcohol, Christensen was seen by a doctoral intern; the conversation was recorded on video because of the intern's status.
The intern contacted counselor Felicia Li for a consultation with Christensen because he mentioned suicide. Li testified that the two discussed voluntary hospitalization with Christensen, who declined. They then referred him for alcohol assessment.
"The client's concern that day was about alcohol ... relationship with his wife," Li said.
Li said she had been unaware Christensen mentioned thoughts of harming others and planning to do so. When Li called Christensen the next day, he told her he was doing fine and would come back the next week for an assessment.
Christensen's defense also called former clinical counselor Jennifer Maupin to testify. As she testified, they pointed to intake records for Christensen in which Christensen said he slept 2-4 hours per night and was currently seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication.
The defense pointed to university policies requiring staff to refer students who expressed a consideration of suicide.
"We were not required to trigger the system of the suicide incident report," Maupin said. "The student was already present, getting help."
The defense also began asking Maupin about the university's Campus Violence Threat Policy which points to threshold signs of violence. Judge James Shadid then called for a break.
Once jurors were gone, Shadid asked the defense what they intended to show by asking about the threat policy.
"This is about the fact that he went and sought help," said attorney Elisabeth Pollock. "There are things they should have done under their policy."
"It's institutional failure," said attorney Julie Brain.
After the trial resumed, Maupin said she met with Christensen March 30, 2017 for a second conversation. Before that meeting, she met with colleagues who determined Christensen needed an ongoing assessment for threats to self or others.
The day after the March 30 meeting, Maupin emailed Christensen to recommend he receive ongoing treatment at Rosecrance in Champaign.
"They have a menu of options that are comprehensive, so it's ideal for one-stop shopping," she wrote.
Later, Maupin said the University of Illinois clinic is meant for short-term counseling.
Friday afternoon, the defense called the counseling center's crisis triage case manager Tom Miebach to the stand. Miebach said he interviewed Christensen on March 30 as well. In that conversation, Christensen said he had thought of suicide in the recent past but had not acted on those thoughts.
Christensen also told him he had had thoughts of killing people in the past but had not had those thoughts in five weeks.
"Client expressed that he found himself thinking often about murder, in an analytical fashion," Miebach wrote in a report. "He admitted to previously purchasing items that would be used in the transport and disposal of a body ... but that he has since disposed of these items."
Miebach said Christensen refused to specify about those items.
"He reiterated that he didn't want to hurt anybody," Miebach said in court. "I asked him multiple times if he ever planned to harm someone, and he said no."
At the end of the meeting, Miebach made an appointment with Christensen for early April, but Miebach told jurors Christensen did not show up for that appointment.
Later, prosecutors pointed to a page from defense documents that showed Christensen filling out a survey at the counseling center in early April. Prosecutors pointed out that the survey showed scores of zero for homicidal and suicidal ideas and improvement on other scores of mental and emotional health since March.
Christensen's team said they didn't know about the document, but they suggested that it may have meant Christensen returned for his April appointment, filled out the survey, then left.
"This is highly unusual, for someone to show up, fill out a form and leave," Miebach said.
The defense pointed out Miebach and Maupin are named in a lawsuit by Zhang's family.
Earlier in the day, Brendt Christensen's ex-wife Michelle Zortman also returned to the stand. Earlier this week, prosecutors played recordings of a jailhouse phone call between Christensen and Zortman in which she joked about Christensen's ex-girlfriend and government witness Terra Bullis leaving court on a stretcher.
"I regret (the remarks)," Zortman said. "I was emotional, and I let that get the better of me."