June 12, 2019, — An attorney for Brendt Christensen, who is charged with kidnapping and killing Chinese visiting scholar Yingying Zhang in 2017, told a federal court judge in Illinois on today that Christensen has admitted killing Zhang.
“Brendt Christensen is responsible for the death of Yingying Zhang,” said his defense attorney George Taseff in US District Court in Peoria, Illinois, while making opening statements at the trial, “Brendt Christensen killed Yingying Zhang.”
Taseff said the trial will proceed in an effort to spare Christensen, 29, the death penalty, saying Christensen is “on trial for his life” and there are several “factual issues” that must be debated before sentencing.
Besides the charge of kidnapping resulting in death, Christensen also faces a capital murder count as well as two counts of making false statements to the FBI.
Taseff’s statement came after prosecutors spent 45 minutes outlining the gruesome details of Zhang’s death, claiming the 26-year-old visiting scholar at UI was raped, beaten and decapitated inside Christensen’s apartment in Champaign, Illinois.
Below is a rough draft of the full transcript from the morning portion of Wednesday’s hearing, including the full opening statements in the high-profile case.