Man accused of kidnapping Chinese scholar to be held without bond

Updated 2017-07-04 08:54:20 Xinhua
Zhang Yingying, a 26-year-old Chinese scholar, is feared dead after an apparent kidnapping.

Zhang Yingying, a 26-year-old Chinese scholar, is feared dead after an apparent kidnapping.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric Long on Monday ordered the man accused of kidnapping a visiting Chinese scholar to be held without bond until his next court hearing on July 5.

Brendt Christensen, 28, charged with kidnapping Yingying Zhang on June 9, did not speak during a hearing at a federal courthouse in Urbana city, the U.S. state of Illinois.

If convicted of the federal kidnapping charge, Christensen faces up to life in prison, according to Sharon Paul, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office.

Christensen was enrolled as a PhD candidate in experimental condensed matter physics by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), but it was not clear if he was still studying at the university when he was arrested on Friday.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Christensen did not speak during the hearing that lasted nine minutes, other than to acknowledge that he understood his rights, according to local media ABC7.

Judge Long asked Christensen's attorney, Evan Bruno of the Urbana-based Bruno Law Firm, whether he was ready to take a stand on bail. When Bruno asked for a few days, Long set a detention hearing for 3 p.m. Wednesday during which bond will be determined.

Christensen will be held in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service before the detention hearing.

A preliminary hearing was set for 10 a.m. local time on July 14. It would be waived if a grand jury returns an indictment before then.

About 45 people packed the courtroom, with hundreds of Chinese from Zhang's university and local Chinese community gathering in the courthouse lobby and outside across the street.

They held posters written "Bring Justice to Yingying and her family," chanting "Justice for Yingying."

Zhang, 26, went missing on June 9 after she got into a black Saturn Astra car about five blocks from where she got off a bus as she was heading to an apartment complex to sign a lease. She, who arrived at the University of Illinois in late April, is feared dead.

FBI and local policemen arrested Christensen last Friday evening based on the fact the suspect called someone about his kidnapping of Zhang.

"While Christensen was under law enforcement surveillance, agents overheard him explaining that he kidnapped Zhang," an FBI press release said.

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