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Jury To Hear Closing Arguments In Brendt Christensen Trial, Charged In Murder Of Chinese Scholar Yingying Zhang

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday in the trial of former University of Illinois doctoral student Brendt Christensen, charged with kidnapping and killing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang in 2017.

Defense attorneys admitted in their opening statement that Christensen killed Zhang, as part of an apparent strategy to convince jurors not to sentence him to the death penalty.

Brendt Christensen Mug
Brendt Christensen. (Courtesy: Macon County Sheriff's Office)

Although Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, Christensen is being tried in federal court, where the death penalty is still an option.

If the jury finds Christensen guilty, they then must decide whether he should face the federal death penalty. The penalty phase of the trial could last two weeks.

Yingying Zhang
Yingying Zhang (FBI)

Monday's closing arguments come after eight days of testimony and evidence, including a surveillance recording of Christensen describing how he raped Zhang, choked and stabbed her, beat her to death with a baseball bat, and decapitated her.

Zhang's body has not been found.

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