Unlikely to find remains of slain Chinese scholar: attorney

Xinhua
The family of Zhang Yingying, the slain visiting scholar at the University of Illinois, acknowledged that "finding her (remains) may be impossible."
Xinhua
Unlikely to find remains of slain Chinese scholar: attorney

The family of Zhang Yingying, the slain visiting scholar at the University of Illinois, spoke at a news conference Wednesday that they have acknowledged that "finding her (remains) may be impossible."

In the conference, Steve Beckett, the attorney representing the family, tried to explain to reporters what the family has learned in the wake of the conviction and life sentence for Brendt Christensen, who kidnapped and killed Zhang in 2017.

The family learned in a July 25 meeting with federal prosecutors that the murder's attorneys had told the government in November 2018 how Christensen disposed of Zhang's body after killing her, said Beckett.

In statements to his attorneys, Christensen claimed that on June 10, 2017, one day after kidnapping and murdering Zhang, he put her dismembered remains in three garbage bags, which were left in a dumpster right outside his apartment and were likely to be removed during regular trash collection three days later.

The contents of the dumpster were taken to a private landfill in Danville, Illinois, where they were compacted at least twice.

Federal authorities are still considering an attempt to recover Zhang's body, according to Beckett and Wang Zhidong, the family's Chicago-based Chinese lawyer.

But even with that knowledge, conducting a search of the landfill is a process fraught with challenges.

"They (prosecutors) discussed with us that at this stage, with decomposition and compaction, the size of the remains could be smaller than a cellphone," Beckett said.

"It is evident that any attempt to recover Yingying's remains would be complicated and expensive, would require government oversight and the cooperation of the landfill owners, and would have no certainty of success," Beckett said.

Wang stressed that what the prosecutors know was relayed to them from the lawyers for Christensen.

"Christensen lied so many times," Wang said. "We don't believe the attorneys lied ... but no one can say for sure that Christensen told his attorneys the truth."

"We are really miserable," Zhang's father Zhang Ronggao said, upon learning what happened to his daughter. Zhang's mother was in tears throughout the press conference before excusing herself from the room.

Zhang Ronggao said he and his family have not yet decided whether they will stay in the United States in hopes of a possible search, or return to China.

They're now working with the University of Illinois to set up a grave site somewhere on campus.

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