The Latest: Family arrives for start of kidnapping trial

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — The Latest on the start of a former University of Illinois graduate student’s trial on charges he kidnapped and killed a visiting scholar. (all times local):

11:45 a.m.

The parents of a 26-year-old visiting scholar who went missing in 2017 have arrived at a courthouse in central Illinois for the start of the death-penalty trial of a former University of Illinois graduate student accused of kidnapping and killing their daughter.

TV footage showed Yingying Zhang’s father, mother and brother walking Monday into the federal courthouse in Peoria, where the first step was to start picking jurors to hear evidence against Brendt Christensen. Jury selection is expected to take more than a week.

The family traveled to Illinois from China last week.

Authorities say Christensen tricked or forced 26-year-old Yingying Zhang into his car in June 2017 as she walked off campus, then later tortured and killed her. He pleaded not guilty. Zhang’s body hasn’t been found.

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8:00 a.m.

Trial is set to begin for a former University of Illinois graduate student accused of kidnapping and killing a visiting scholar from China.

The death penalty is possible in the federal case that starts Monday against 29-year-old Brendt Christensen. Authorities say he tricked or forced 26-year-old Yingying Zhang into his car in June 2017. Christensen has pleaded not guilty. He told the FBI he dropped Zhang off after a few blocks. Zhang’s body hasn’t been found.

Jury selection is expected to take about a week. Proceedings are in Peoria, a central Illinois city about 85 miles (135 kilometers) northwest of Champaign, where Zhang was studying at the university’s flagship campus and where she was last seen.

Zhang’s father, mother and brother have flown to Illinois from China for the trial.

Categories: National News