The defense lawyers of a former graduate student at the University of Illinois admitted to the jury on Wednesday that their client brutally beat and killed a foreign exchange student from China but stressed that he "is on trial for his life," in a case that can kill the death penalty.
"Brendt Christensen killed Yingying Zhang," Christian's lawyer George Tesseff told the jury, although he questions important details of the prosecutor's version of events that resulted in the death of the 26-year-old
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Prosecutors claim that Christensen, a 29-year-old former physics student, became obsessed with serial killers months before attacking and attracted Zhang into his vehicle on June 9, 201
Zhang, who had only been in the United States for two months and was not fluent in English, guilty.
Christensen drove Zhang to his apartment, where he snapped and raped her in his bedroom, later stabbing her, as evidenced by the blood splatters in his room. Zhang, 5-foot-4 petite, tried to fight back but Christensen continued to choke her. He later pulled her to his bathroom, bashing and "splitting his head open" with a baseball bat, according to prosecutor Eugene Miller. He then accused her of disposing of his body, which has never been found.
Prosecutors must prove that Zhang is dead without a physique, but evidence, including from a cadaver sniffing dog used by Christensen's apartment authorities, suggests that a dead body had been there.
Zhang's parents traveled to the United States from China to help with the search for their daughter after her disappearance in 2017 and have returned to Illinois with Zhang's boyfriend for the trial. 19659005] Christensen's girlfriend helped the FBI secure his arrest by wearing a thread and he was arrested on his birthday on June 30, 2017. She will be a witness for the trial in the trial.
Miller released a bombshell in opening declarations when he informed the court that Christensen was trapped on an FBI wiretap that shook his killing 12 other people before Zhang, claiming that he had not yet been substantiated by the authorities.
Defense Attorney Te sseff backed on these claims, saying that his client was a big drinker and was full when making these statements.
Christensen can face the death penalty if he is convicted of murder and marks the first death penalty since Illinois banned the death penalty
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The jury consists of 12 people who believe in the death penalty, criteria that must be met in one federal death penalty case.
Associated Press contributed to this report.