On Thursday, Yingying Zhang’s killer was sentenced to life behind bars. The punishment for Brendt Christensen was handed down after nearly two weeks of testimony before a jury in federal court.
On day one, the prosecution called Zhang’s loved ones including her father and fiancé. Zhang’s father broke down on the stand. “Yingying is part of me as if my life without her would not be complete,” said Ronggao Zhang.
Her fiancé told the jury that Christensen “took away the most important person in my 30 years of life.” Upset with the results…he took to the microphone after the sentencing.
“The result today seemed to tell me that I can kill anyone…and I will not need to die for it,” said Xiaolin Ho.
During testimony, the jury heard from the convicted killer’s family. Brendt’s father, Michael, talked about his son’s issues with mental health. He wept when asked about the Zhang family.
“I’m sorry my son caused their pain,” said Michael Christensen.
For the remainder of their testimony, the defense worked to prove that Christensen tried to get help when he was first having homicidal thoughts. They called on an expert who testified Brendt could have recieved better counseling from U of I.
In closing statements, the prosecution said Christensen killed the Chinese student for sport. After eight and a half hours of deliberation, the jury could not reach a unanimous decision. Christensen received the minimum received the minimum sentence, life in prison without the possibility of release.
During his remarks, Judge James Shadid addressed Christensen directly. “Your complete and total lack of remorse was not lost on anyone…you could not muster a simple ‘I’m sorry,’ said Shadid.
The Zhang family said ultimately, they were willing to accept the lesser sentence.
“We hope that every day he spends in prison, he feels the pain and suffering that we feel for the loss of Yingying,” said Ronggao Zhang.
Ronggao begged Christensen to tell them where her remains are.
“If you have any humanity left in your soul, please help end our torment,” he added.
Christensen now waits to see where he will be sent to serve that life sentence.