A kidnapping suspect showed up to a rally for the scholar he’s accused of abducting. Hundreds of students, professors and concerned strangers also attended the rally on Thursday.
Zhang is thought to have been kidnapped back in June. Yingying Zhang, 26, was just a month into a year-long appointment as a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign campus when she went missing. On June 9, she went to sign an apartment lease but she never returned.
Brendt Christensen, the man who would later be identified as the suspect was present during the rally at University of Illinois, campus police said according to WTVR. He was also photographed at the event, standing by himself in a dark T-shirt. The day after the rally, he was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping. According to reports, he was under surveillance for weeks.
Christensen’s black Saturn Astra, had a sunroof and a cracked front passenger hubcap, just like the vehicle that picked up Zhang the day she disappeared, according to the FBI. An investigation into Christensen’s phone revealed he visited fetish website FetLife, including a forum called “Abduction 101.” The FBI also discovered that the suspect “was captured on audio recording … explaining how he kidnapped” Zhang. According to NBC News, he described in that recording how he "held her in his apartment against her will." The FBI has stated that Zhang is presumed dead.
28-year-old Christensen, a former physics PhD candidate at the University of Illinois, appeared in court for an arraignment hearing on Monday. His defense attorney urged the public to avoid jumping to conclusions.
[NBC News and Macon County Sheriff's Office]