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Illinois Man Charged with Kidnapping Chinese Scholar Pleads Not Guilty

  • VOA News

This photo provided by the Macon County Sheriff's Office in Decatur, Illinois, shows Brendt Christensen, the suspect in the kidnapping of visiting University of Illinois Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang.

An Illinois man charged with kidnapping Chinese student Yingying Zhang pleaded not guilty Thursday and will go on trial Sept. 12.

Brendt Christensen entered his plea at his brief arraignment before a federal judge in Urbana, Illinois, south of Chicago.

Zhang has been missing since June 9. Investigators are sure she is dead, but have not found her body. Some of her relatives who came to Illinois from China to help with the search were in the courtroom Thursday.

Zhang came to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign as a scholar in environmental science and crop production.

Watch: Illinois Man Pleads Not Guilty to Kidnapping Visiting Chinese Student

Video shows Zhang

Investigators say she disappeared while scrambling to make an appointment to sign a lease on an apartment.

Surveillance video shows her failing to flag down a bus. A car investigators say matches the description of Christensen's car, including minor damage on the front wheel, pulls up and she gets in. She has not been seen since.

Different accounts

Police say Christensen gave different accounts of where he was the day Zhang disappeared. They also say he visited a fetish website for people who like to fantasize about kidnapping and bondage.

Christensen's lawyer has cautioned reporters against jumping to conclusions, saying, "There's a lot the public doesn't know" about the case.

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