Christensen lawyers plan mental-health defense to avoid death penalty

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) – Brendt Christensen’s wife has filed for divorce.

Christensen is accused of kidnapping and killing visiting University of Illinois scholar Yingying Zhang in 2017. He is being held in Livingston County Jail on federal charges of kidnapping resulting in death following the disappearance of Zhang.

Christensen’s wife, Michelle Christensen, filed a petition for dissolution of marriage from her husband in Champaign County.

According to the petition for divorce, Michelle Christensen cited "irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage; that efforts at reconciliation have failed; and future attempts at reconciliation would be impractical, and not in the best interest of the family."

Michelle Christensen also looks to regain her maiden name, Zortman, while also seeking to retain her premarital property.

According to the filing, the couple does not have any children. The two have been married since 2011.

Brendt Christensen’s trial date is set for April 3rd and faces the death penalty.