Accused kidnapper was a former U of I student

A child performs yoga at a hotel banquet hall to mark the International Yoga Day in Changping District on the outskirts of Beijing China Sunday

A child performs yoga at a hotel banquet hall to mark the International Yoga Day in Changping District on the outskirts of Beijing China Sunday

Federal authorities have arrested and charged a 28-year-old man with kidnapping Yingying Zhang, a visiting scholar at the University of IL who disappeared three weeks ago and now is presumed dead.

Christensen was charged Friday with kidnapping 26-year-old Yingying Zhang, who went missing June 9.

The affidavit filed alleges that on June 9, Christensen was driving the black Saturn Astra as it stopped next to Zhang on the brink of UIUC campus at approximately 2:00 pm. Zhang had been missing since June 9th, but investigators now say, they don't believe she is alive. The FBI said in a statement that evidence they have points to Zhang no longer being alive.

On his Linked-in page, Christensen said he's a PhD candidate at the U of I in experimental condensed matter physics.

It was reported that agents overheard Christensen saying he kidnapped Yingying Zhang while he was under surveillance on Thursday, according to a criminal complaint.

Federal Bureau of Investigation and University of Illinois Police Department officers were busy inspecting the building, in which the suspect lived in Campaign, Illinois, the United States, July 1, 2017.

University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said Saturday she couldn't immediately confirm Christensen is enrolled at the university.

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Although Christensen admitted he picked up Zhang, he stated to the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he let her out blocks away from where he had picked her up. University police released a video of her getting into the auto. She had graduated last year from Beijing's Peking University with a master's degree in environmental engineering, and was serving a year-long position at the University of Illinois' department of natural resources and environmental sciences, according to CNN.

Investigators had also placed Christensen under surveillance after they interviewed him in mid-June, according to court documents. There are reportedly 18 vehicles registered in Champaign County which look similar to the one Zhang got into when she was picked up at the bus stop in Champaign, Illinois.

The University of IL has the largest Chinese student population of any USA college, with 5,600 students enrolled, according to US government data.

Brendt Christensen was a graduate student in the physics department and a teaching assistant until May, a University of IL professor told CNN. Police at the University of IL gave their condolences to Yingying's family.

Christensen, of Champaign, Illinois, is in federal custody pending a court appearance scheduled for Monday.

Zhang graduated a year ago with a master's degree in environmental engineering from one of China's elite schools, Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School.

"At this point, all I can say is that the family is very devastated and very sad, and just needs to find a way to sort through this", she said Saturday.

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