Man held in Chinese scholar's kidnapping was recent grad

Courtesy of the Zhang family

Zhang, a 26-year-old visiting scholar from China, was reported missing from the University of IL at Urbana-Champaign on June 9.

Police say 27-year-old Brendt Christensen has been charged with kidnapping Yingying Zhang.

Tbe FBI believe that Christensen was the man seen on CCTV driving a black Saturn Astra and picking up Zhang on 9 June. Christensen is the car's registered owner, according to a court affidavit.

The FBI obtains a search warrant for Christensen's vehicle after further review of surveillance footage, including a cracked front-passenger hubcap, leads them to determine it was the one that picked up Zhang.

His LinkedIn profile states he is a PhD candidate in physics at the University of IL campus in central IL and has been a graduate teaching assistant at the university since 2013.

Zhang arrived on campus in April to study photosynthesis and crop productivity. However, Christensen admitted that he picked her up on June 15 but told an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent that he had dropped her off a few blocks away after she panicked. She graduated from Beijing's prestigious Peking University previous year with a master's degree in environmental engineering, according to a department webpage.

He will make his first appearance in federal court on Monday.

- An Illinois man accused of kidnapping a visiting Chinese scholar weeks after visiting a bondage and sadomasochism fetish website forum called "Abduction 101". On Thursday, law enforcement officials overheard him explain that he kidnapped Zhang. He was under surveillance Thursday after the recording was found and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also found that he owned a vehicle exactly like the one Zhang was last seen boarding. Christensen claimed he had let her out of his auto "just a few blocks away".

(Courtesy of the University of Illinois Police Department via AP). On Thursday, he took part in a walk with students and university staff to the corner where his daughter was last seen.

On June 16, authorities placed the suspect from Champaign, Illinois under constant surveillance. She was expected to begin work on her doctorate in the fall.

While that is going on, they speak with another occupant of Christensen's residence, who consents to a search and seizure.

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