FBI agent: No evidence to back up Brendt Christensen's claim that Chinese scholar was his 13th victim, but 'not saying it's completely impossible'
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FBI agent: No evidence to back up Brendt Christensen's claim that Chinese scholar was his 13th victim, but 'not saying it's completely impossible'

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PEORIA — An FBI agent testified Monday that investigators have not been able to corroborate Brendt Christensen's claim that he killed 12 people before the abduction of Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2017.

In a recording played for jurors Friday, Christensen tells his then-girlfriend, who was wearing a wire for the FBI, that Zhang was his 13th victim.

FBI Special Agent Andrew Huckstadt testified Monday in federal court that "we've said multiple times" that evidence has not been recovered linking Christensen with other murders.

"However, that's not the same as saying it's completely impossible," Huckstadt said. "We're continuing to investigate and that's as far as we can go at this time."

Christensen, 29, is accused of killing Zhang in June 2017 after she had missed a bus and got into his car. Christensen's defense team admitted in their opening statements Wednesday that Christensen killed Zhang, whose body has not been found. Christensen is facing the death penalty in the case.

In U.S. District Court on Friday and again Monday, jurors heard Christensen detail on the recordings for the FBI how Zhang fought back after he had abducted her. Christensen, who spoke as he attended a memorial walk for Zhang with his then-girlfriend, said on the recording that he beat Zhang and decapitated her.

William O'Sullivan, an FBI senior forensic examiner based in Springfield, detailed for jurors Monday morning how he analyzed the contents of Christensen's phone, including online messages exchanged with other users on the fetish website Fetlife.com.

The Latest: FBI investigating claims of additional victims

Associated Press

PEORIA — The Latest on the trial of man charged in slaying of Chinese scholar (all times local):

12:06 p.m.

An FBI agent says law enforcement continues to investigate claims of additional victims made by a former University of Illinois doctoral student on trial for the slaying of a visiting scholar from China.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports FBI agent Andrew Huckstradt testified Monday morning at the federal murder trial of Brendt Christensen that the FBI can't corroborate the claim jurors heard Christensen make in a recording played last week but that "we're continuing to investigate."

Prosecutors say Christensen bragged about such claims in a conversation that his girlfriend secretly recorded.

Christensen is charged with first-degree murder in the 2017 slaying of Yingying Zhang (ying ying zahng). Prosecutors contend Christensen kidnapped the 26-year-old Zhang, beat her to death with a baseball bat and decapitated her. Her body has never been found.

Defense attorneys opened the trial last week with the acknowledgment, in an attempt to spare Christensen the death penalty, that their client had killed Zhang.

Also on Monday, an FBI forensic examiner testified that browsing history on Christensen's cell phone and that no relevant location data was recovered from it.


6:41 a.m.

The federal death-penalty trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student charged with slaying a 26-year-old scholar visiting from China is resuming in central Illinois.

Monday is the fourth day of testimony as prosecutors present their case against 29-year-old Brendt Christensen. He's accused of killing Yingying Zhang after luring her into his car in 2017.

Prosecutors initially said they would need weeks for their presentation but later said they could finish in eight days. That could mean they wrap up this week.

Prosecutors ended last week by playing a secret recording of Christensen in which he tells his girlfriend he killed Zhang.

Defense attorneys seeking to spare him a death sentence told jurors he did killed Zhang. But they dispute some details about how and why he did it.


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