CBSN

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in Chinese scholar's kidnap, killing

URBANA, Ill. - U.S. prosecutors have told a judge they will seek the death penalty against a 28-year-old man charged with the kidnapping and killing of a University of Illinois scholar from China.

Federal prosecutors filed a notice Friday with the U.S. District Court in central Illinois. It cites, among other factors, that Brendt Christensen's alleged killing of Yingying Zhang involved torture.

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Yingying Zhang, left, and Brent Christensen

CBS Chicago

Christensen is charged in the June kidnapping and death of the 26-year-old. Her body hasn't been found, but authorities say that have evidence she's dead.

An FBI affidavit says Christensen admitted he offered Zhang a ride and that she got in his car but claims he let her out a few blocks away. The same affidavit also says while under surveillance, he was recorded saying he brought Zhang back to his apartment and held her against her will.

Christensen's trial is slated to begin Feb. 27. He has pleaded not guilty.