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Brendt Christensen’s attorney says his client killed U of I scholar

The federal trial of Brendt Christensen—the man accused of kidnapping Chinese University of Illinois Scholar Yingying Zhang⁠—began Wednesday with a shocking admission from the defense.

During opening statements, Christensen’s defense attorney, George Taseff, told the jury his client killed the 26-year-old in June of 2017.

This admission came after the prosecution detailed how Christensen lured Zhang into his car, took her to his apartment, raped her, stabbed her then hit her with a baseball bat before decapitating her in his bathtub.

Zhang’s remains have never been found though prosecutors argue Christensen bought cleaning supplies and Drano after murdering her to get rid of any evidence.

Though Christensen’s attorneys admit he killed her they say he was not in the right state of mind when he did as they claim he was in a deep depression and abusing drugs and alcohol.

During the prosecution’s opening statements, they mentioned FBI recorded conversations between Christensen and a former girlfriend where he claims that Zhang is his thirteenth victim. They claim he said he had been “active since he was 19” and that Zhang was the only victim anyone found out about.

They say he bragged that “the last serial killer on his level was Ted Bundy.”

The defense told the jury that when they hear Christensen on the tapes, which will be played in court, they should have an “open mind and heart” as Christensen was drunk when during the conversation. They claimed his statements were false.

Taseff added that after the FBI heard the recordings they investigated to see if Christensen could be linked to any unsolved murders but nothing ever materialized.

During another conversation, the prosecution says Christensen described in detail how he choked, stabbed and split open Zhang’s head.

The defense said Christensen is “on trial for his life” because if he is convicted he could face the death penalty. The trial will resume at 9 a.m. on Thursday at the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Peoria.

Stephanie Rodriguez

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