Brendt Christensen, 28, has been charged and arrested in the kidnapping of missing Chinese student Yingying Zhang. Zhang, a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, went missing on June 9 and police believe is now dead.
On Thursday, Christensen attended a rally in support of Zhang’s family, according to the East Illinois News Gazette. Several photos from the event show man bearing a strong resemblance to Christensen with an unknown woman dressed in black.
According to the FBI, Christensen was overheard talking about kidnapping Zhang, taking her to his apartment and holding her against her will on that very same day.
On Friday, Christensen was arrested and charged. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Monday.
Zhang, 26, was last seen getting into a black Saturn Astra on June 9 a few weeks after she arrived at the University’s Urbana-Champaign campus from China to study agriculture sciences.
According to the FBI, this vehicle matched the description of a car owned by Christensen.
After obtaining his cell phone, authorities also found that Christensen had visited online threads titled “Abduction 101,” “perfect abduction fantasy” and “planning a kidnapping” on the website FetLife, a “social network for the BDSM, fetish and kinky community.”
Christensen, who has been studying in the school’s competitive physics graduate program since 2013, also had an OkCupid account that said he was “married and in an open relationship.”
The profile read: “I’m Brendt. Grad student at UIUC. I’m pretty chill and easy going…it’s pretty much impossible to make me mad. I want to experience everything and test my limits.
“I also work out a ton but don’t mind if you don’t. Fitness has been a passion of mine since junior high.”
Jon Bowman, who exercised with the same group as Christensen, told the News Gazette: “He would nearly always come with a woman…Most of us who were working out were usually talkative and in a good mood, but Christensen was different. He and the woman always wore black, and they kept themselves. They never said anything to the rest of us,” Bowman told the paper.
While one former classmate, Souvik Dutta, said he was “dumbfounded” by the revelation and described Christensen as “very calm,” others who lived in Christensen’s apartment complex said he was “creepy.”
Based on Christensen’s comments when questioned by authorities and other facts upturned during the investigation, FBI agents believe Zhang is no longer alive.
University of Illinois
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, also known as U of I, University of Illinois, UIUC, or simply Illinois, is a public research-intensive university in the U.S. state of Illinois. It has a total enrollment of 44,087.
About 5,600 Chinese students are enrolled at the University of Illinois – more than any other U.S. college, according to government data. Zhang’s kidnapping prompted fears among Chinese students and their families.