Jurors in Illinois heard a third day of testimony in the death-penalty trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student who is accused of killing a visiting scholar from China.
The jurors in the federal trial Friday heard secretly recorded audio in which the suspect, Brendt Christensen, 29, allegedly describes to his girlfriend how he killed 26-year-old Chinese scholar, Yingying Zhang.
On the recording, Christensen tells his girlfriend about choking Zhang and called the Chinese woman “valiant” as she tried to fight back.
The Champaign News-Gazette has reported that Christensen’s girlfriend made the recording when she wore a wire for the FBI.
Prosecutors accuse Christensen of posing as a police officer to lure Zhang into his car June 9, 2017. They say he had been fantasizing about killing someone before he abducted Zhang.
During the trial’s opening Wednesday, defense attorneys for Christensen made the rare admission that their client is guilty, in an effort to spare him a possible death sentence. However, defense attorneys have disputed some details from prosecutors about how and why Christensen killed Zhang. Zhang’s body has not been found.
The trial is being held in Peoria, Illinois, after a judge agreed with defense lawyers that pretrial publicity would have made it difficult for Christensen to get a fair trial in the Champaign area, where the university is located.
The University of Illinois has more than 5,000 Chinese students among its 45,000-student body.