URBANA, Ill. (AP) – Surveillance cameras at the University of Illinois helped find a suspect in the disappearance of a Chinese scholar, investigators said.
The footage showed Yingying Zhang getting into a black Saturn Astra before she disappeared on June 9 in Urbana, the News-Gazette reported. The video was made public after Zhang was reported missing.
An FBI affidavit says the vehicle’s license plate wasn’t legible, but that the footage showed the vehicle had a cracked hubcap. The affidavit says that helped investigators distinguish it from the other vehicles of that model registered in Champaign County.
Investigators determined the vehicle belonged to former graduate student Brendt Christensen. Christensen’s phone was also allegedly used in April to view a forum called “Abduction 101” online, authorities said.
Christensen was arrested on June 30. He was indicted Wednesday on charges of kidnapping.
Prosecutors allege Christensen admitted to kidnapping Zhang and spoke about how she fought and resisted, and about what makes an ideal victim. Prosecutors haven’t said when or to whom Christensen made the statements.
Thomas Bruno, an attorney for Christensen, has said without a source it’s hard to judge whether the statements are reliable. He said his client deserves the “presumption of innocence.”
Zhang was allegedly abducted while on her way to sign an apartment lease off campus in Urbana.
FBI officials have presumed Zhang dead, but the agency said the investigation is still active.
“The case is ongoing and will continue to be ongoing until we locate Ms. Zhang,” said Springfield-based spokesman Brad Ware.
Christensen remains jailed pending trial.
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