The attorney representing Brendt Christensen on Wednesday admitted that his client killed Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying.
“Brendt Christensen is responsible for the death of Yingying Zhang,” federal defender George Taseff told a shocked court in the Peoria federal courthouse.
“Brendt Christensen killed Yingying Zhang.”
The shocking admission from Christensen’s defense team came after prosecutors spent close to an hour outlining the gruesome details of Zhang’s death, claiming that the Chinese scholar was raped, assaulted and decapitated inside Christensen’s Champaign apartment.
Despite the admission however, Christensen is not changing his not guilty plea.
Taseff said the trial would continue because his client was “on trial for his life” and there are several “factual issues” that must be debated before sentencing.
Zhang, a 26-year-old visiting scholar that was studying photosynthesis and crop productivity at the University of Illinonis, was last seen alive on 9 June, 2017.
Surveillance footage showed her entering a car allegedly driven by Christensen after she missed a bus while heading for an appointment to sign a new apartment lease.
She was never seen again, and her body has never been recovered. Prosecutors alleged Christensen tortured and killed Zhang, saying he had an “expressed desire” to be known as a killer.
"He kidnapped her, he murdered her, he covered up his crime," Federal prosecutor Eugene Miller said.
Zhang’s family arrived in Illinois from China's Fujian Province late May ahead of the trial.