Yingying Zhang was a Chinese exchange student at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, when her short life was cut brutally short by an encounter with local resident Brendt Christensen.
Zhang, 26, was last seen alive on June 9, 2017, as surveillance footage clocked her getting into Christensen’s car.
She had just missed her bus in Urbana, Illinois, when Christensen pulled up beside her in his car; playing the role of a good samaritan, he offered her a lift. Instead of taking her to where she wanted to go, he took her to his apartment, where he raped and murdered the student.
He allegedly attacked her with a baseball bat before decapitating her to make sure she was dead. Police have never found her body.
FBI investigators became suspicious of Christensen after they were able to trace his car, a Saturn Astra, back to him from the surveillance footage.
Brendt Christensen’s girlfriend agreed to wear a wire
Terra Bullis was dating Christensen at the time, and when approached by the FBI, she agreed to wear a hidden audio device. She recorded nine different conversations with her boyfriend but finally got a confession on June 29, 2017, as he and Bullis attended a vigil for Zhang.
Terra Bullis spoke about how Christensen seemed “proud” and excited when he talked about the killing. He described how Zhang had fought hard for her life, calling her efforts valiant and “supernatural almost how [Zhang] just didn’t give up.”
In the audio recording, Christensen also told Bullis that he had murdered 13 other people and that he admired some of America’s most notorious serial killers such as Ted Bundy.
Zhang’s blood and DNA were also discovered in his car and at his apartment.
His defense lawyers told the court that Christensen had a long history suffering from depression, mental illness, and alcohol abuse.
In July 2019, Christensen was eventually sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison for kidnapping and murdering Yingying Zhang. The jury was unable to agree on the death penalty unanimously, so the judge imposed the lesser sentence.
More from See No Evil
Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on See No Evil.
On December 8, 2013, at the Luna Lounge nightclub in Appleton, Wisconsin, Chong Lee pulled out a firearm and gunned down Josh Richards during an argument. Lee then proceeded to brag to several witnesses about his crime.
Sasha Samsudean, a young professional from Orlando, came home after a night out and was followed into her home by the apartment security guard, Stephen Duxbury, who then attempted to rape her before choking his victim to death. He tried to blame the crime on a mysterious intruder.
See No Evil airs Wednesday at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.