Charges upgraded in kidnapping of missing Chinese student

Brendt Christensen could face the death penalty for killing Yingying Zhang.

The man charged in the disappearance of a Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois could be eligible for the death penalty after new charges were filed, accusing him of kidnapping and killing her.

Illinois man could face death penalty in missing Chinese student case

According to an updated indictment released this week, 28-year-old Brendt Christensen has been charged with kidnapping resulting in the death of Yingying Zhang. Christensen was initially charged with kidnapping Zhang, but the new charges claim he kidnapped and "intentionally killed" her.

Zhang was last seen in surveillance video getting into Christensen's car at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus on June 9. Christensen was arrested three weeks later as a suspect in Zhang's kidnapping. While her body has not been recovered, she is believed by authorities to be dead.

The criminal complaint, released Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Illinois, alleges Christensen killed Zhang during "the commission of a kidnapping," and that the offense he committed which caused her to die was committed in an "especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner, in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse," according to court documents.

If convicted, Christensen could face either life in prison or the death penalty, according to a statement from the office of the US attorney for the central district of Illinois. A preliminary trial date has been set for February 27.

More here: He was 20 and unarmed. A police shooting brings Seattle's Vietnamese Americans into the world of activism

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