The Latest: Murder suspect read up on serial killers

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — The Latest on the trial of man charged in slaying of Chinese scholar (all times local):

1:42 p.m.

A witness is telling a jury that the former University Illinois doctoral student charged in the slaying of a visiting Chinese scholar used his computer to research serial killers, decomposing bodies and downloaded photographs of bound and gagged women.

FBI Senior Forensic Examiner William O’Sullivan on Monday walked the federal jurors through Brendt Christensen’s computer use in the weeks before YingYing Zhang (ying ying zahng) disappeared in June 2017. Christensen is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Zhang, whose body has never been found.

O’Sullivan also testified that Christensen visited a social media site for adults with alternative sexual interests, reading several posts about kidnapping and rape fantasies. Jurors also learned how Christensen, who prosecutors say stabbed and decapitated Zhang, also went online to watch videos about knife sharpening.

Sullivan’s testimony came after an FBI agent testified that agents are investigating a claim that Christensen made to a girlfriend that Zhang was one of 13 victims but that no evidence has been found to corroborate that claim.


12:06 p.m.

An FBI agent says law enforcement continues to investigate claims of additional victims made by a former University of Illinois doctoral student on trial for the slaying of a visiting scholar from China.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports FBI agent Andrew Huckstradt testified Monday morning at the federal murder trial of Brendt Christensen that the FBI can’t corroborate the claim jurors heard Christensen make in a recording played last week but that “we’re continuing to investigate.”

Prosecutors say Christensen bragged about such claims in a conversation that his girlfriend secretly recorded.

Christensen is charged with first-degree murder in the 2017 slaying of Yingying Zhang (ying ying zahng). Prosecutors contend Christensen kidnapped the 26-year-old Zhang, beat her to death with a baseball bat and decapitated her. Her body has never been found.

Defense attorneys opened the trial last week with the acknowledgment, in an attempt to spare Christensen the death penalty, that their client had killed Zhang.

Also on Monday, an FBI forensic examiner testified that browsing history on Christensen’s cell phone and that no relevant location data was recovered from it.


6:41 a.m.

The federal death-penalty trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student charged with slaying a 26-year-old scholar visiting from China is resuming in central Illinois.

Monday is the fourth day of testimony as prosecutors present their case against 29-year-old Brendt Christensen. He’s accused of killing Yingying Zhang after luring her into his car in 2017.

Prosecutors initially said they would need weeks for their presentation but later said they could finish in eight days. That could mean they wrap up this week.

Prosecutors ended last week by playing a secret recording of Christensen in which he tells his girlfriend he killed Zhang.

Defense attorneys seeking to spare him a death sentence told jurors he did killed Zhang. But they dispute some details about how and why he did it.

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