CHICAGO (CBS) — Flyers with pictures of Yingying Zhang are still visible around Chicago’s China Town; a community that stepped in to help the family of the Chinese scholar who went missing on June 9.
“I did all I could,” said Dr. Kim Tee, a Zhang family friend who was behind the effort. He’s been in touch with the Zhang family since they arrived in the United States, and also brought them to Chicago last week. “I could not sleep at all last night,” he said.
Friday evening, the FBI announced they arrested 28-year-old Brendt Christensen, a former graduate student from the University of Illinois. He now faces charges for kidnapping the 26-year-old woman.
News of his arrest stunned the U of I community. A professor of Christensen’s said he never saw any signs of trouble.
“I’ve received many, many emails from faculty and students expressing shock that this happened,” said Lance Cooper, Director of the university’s Graduate Studies Department. “Those that knew him are quite surprised. There was no hint of something like this.”
“The entire community is more sorrow about what happened about this case, because with the detailed description from the FBI, the entire community is in shock,” Dr. Tee said.
Surveillance video shows Zhang got into the front seat of Christensen’s black Saturn near the University campus. The FBI now says they have audio of Christensen, who once worked as a teacher’s assistant, describing how he kidnapped her.
“Based on this, and other facts uncovered during the investigation of this matter, law enforcement agents believe that Ms. Zhang is no longer alive,” federal prosecutors said in a news release.
Christensen told investigators he saw Zhang looking lost and offered her a ride. He initially told the FBI he let her out a few blocks away.
But investigators say they later found evidence on his cellphone that he had visited an online forum with topics including “perfect abduction fantasy” and “planning a kidnapping.”
“The [Zhang] family, I don’t think they are accepting it because there is still a chance — they are slightly hopeful,” Dr. Tee said. “They will not leave until they find her.”
The FBI has not revealed any information as to where Zhang’s body might be. Christensen is scheduled to be back in court on Monday.
The University of Illinois is planning a memorial service for Zhang.