Brendt Christensen, who kidnapped and killed Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying in 2017, was sentenced on Thursday to life imprisonment without the possibility of release.
Judge James Shadid announced the verdict in a federal court of Peoria in the US state of Illinois, after the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether Christensen should be sentenced to death or life in prison.
Zhang’s parents didn’t go to the courtroom to hear the verdict, and her mother cried uncontrollably in a press conference after the sentencing. Christensen looked relaxed upon hearing the verdict, and his parents appeared satisfied with their son being spared life.
“After more than two years, we finally see the law brings Zhang’s family justice. The criminal’s cruel deeds are confirmed, which should be punished,” Bian Zhichun, deputy Chinese consul general in Chicago, told reporters.
“I thank all who are making efforts to maintain and promote justice, and I hope all Chinese students who are studying in the United States have a peaceful environment to study and live here,” added Bian.
The 12-member jury last month unanimously ruled that Christensen was guilty of all three charges against him, namely, kidnapping resulting in the death of Zhang in 2017, and two counts of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The 26-year-old female Chinese scholar went missing on June 9, 2017, after getting into a black Saturn Astra about five blocks away from where she got off a bus on her way to an apartment complex to sign a lease.
Christensen was arrested on June 30, 2017, after being caught on tape pointing out people he described as “ideal victims” during a vigil in Zhang’s honor.