In a bombshell claim during the death-penalty trial of a former University of Illinois graduate student accused of kidnapping, torturing, and killing a visiting Chinese scholar, the defense attorney admitted his client committed the crime. “Brendt Christensen is responsible for the death of Yingying Zhang,” federal defender George Taseff said in a Peoria federal courthouse on Wednesday. “Brendt Christensen killed Yingying Zhang.” Prosecutors allege Christensen, 29, lured the 26-year-old into his car in June 9, 2017, before raping, beating, and decapitating the aspiring photosynthesis major inside his apartment. Christensen was arrested after his girlfriend helped the FBI capture what was described as incriminating statements. He pleaded not guilty to kidnapping resulting in death. Authorities have never found Yingying’s body or provided a motive. Prosecutors told the court Wednesday that new bloodstain evidence that was uncovered in Christensen’s apartment bedroom and on a baseball bat. Federal prosecutor Eugene Miller said Christensen, who compared himself to serial killer Ted Bundy, had begun planning to abduct and murder someone months before he chose Zhang. “He kidnapped her, he murdered her, he covered up his crime,” Miller said.
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