The Henious Kidnapping and Murder of Yingying Zhang

On June 9th, 2019, Yingying Zhang was on a mission. This twenty-six-year-old student was determined to sign on her brand new apartment. We know this because it was the last message that she sent to the leasing agent that she was traveling to meet. Yingying was a student studying abroad from China at the University of Illinois. She had been granted the opportunity to study for a year, all while working in a lab that would give her great working experience in her biological studies.

She was set to learn, grow, and work with interesting plants. It was meant to be the start of a beautiful career, and a beautiful life that she planned on sharing with her boyfriend, who she planned to marry once the year was over. Unfortunately, Yingying never returned home.

Yingying Zhang poses for camera
Yingying Zhang was 26-years-old when she began her studies abroad from her homeland in China. Here is Yingying happy and posing for the camera.

Yingying’s Las Ride

Yingying’s disappearance involved many disturbing circumstances and lead to a widespread investigation. It all began with a car. According to reports, Yingying was heading to an apartment showing to sign a lease for a new apartment. She was very excited about this endeavor and was racing across town to make it possible. She got on one bus, then missed her second bus. Hastily, she texted the leasing agent to let her know that she was running late.

yingying missing bus

The troubling thing is that Yingying never got on a second bus. Instead, a Black Saturn drove by and looped the area before pulling up to Yingying. A brief conversation ensued and Yingying got into the vehicle with the driver. This footage was the last captured moments of Yingying’s life. This grainy footage would also be the only real evidence that police had to go on.

The security footage that showed Yingying getting into the car was blurry. Though police could make out the model of the car, they were unable to read the license plate. In this kind of instance, it is standard to pull all of the cars of that make that are registered in the area.

By doing this, police were able to locate Brendt Christensen, a local who had just recently left the University of Illinois himself. Upon being interviewed, he told police that he knew nothing and gave a loose alibi. Further examination of the footage revealed a few identifying details that they were able to tie back to Christensen, and the investigation continued.

Brendt Christensen Undercover Girlfriend
Brendt Christensen was struggling with marriage when Yingying Zhang vanished. It was his black Saturn in the above video seen picking up Yingying.


The Evidence

We don’t know who allowed the police to search the apartment, but there is a good chance that it was Christensen’s wife. It is unclear if this is at all related to the revelation that Christensen also had a girlfriend on the side. The information shows that somebody who lived at the residence granted them access, which allowed them to locate a wide variety of concerning elements. First, there was evidence of blood and quite a lot of it. Ultimately, it was determined that the apartment had been the location for the murder.

Despite the evidence being found, Christensen’s girlfriend maintained his innocence. She was, in fact, so convinced of his innocence that she supposedly agreed to wear a wire to clear his name. You can imagine her surprise when he openly started bragging about how he killed Yingying, as well as how he killed a ton of other people. With enough evidence in hand, police promptly arrested Christensen and his case began to take place.

As is the case with many killers, a big issue surrounding Christensen’s behavior was the fact that the police did not know where Yingying’s body was. This unfortunate turn of events led them to rely on Christensen, but he didn’t have any good news. Reportedly, Christensen distributed her body in parts in various dumpsters. This meant that the police were completely unable to retrieve her body for her heartbroken family. Despite attempts to claim insanity, Christensen is in jail now and will be until he dies.

Yingying Zhang parents crying at press conference
Brendt Christensen was found guilty in the kidnapping and killing case of Yingying Zhang. He is currently incarcerated.






BreeAnn is the host and creator of Among the Dirt and Trees—and the team blogger! She grew up with a love of all things spooky while obsessing over Investigation Discovery shows and eventually switched over to podcasts while working a boring office job in Corporate America. She has since left her corporate life behind to spend her days and nights as a freelance writer and podcaster, but she still takes time to listen to podcasts while she works. Talkocast has given her a chance to leverage her B.S. in Psychology and her love of writing to terrify the general public. You can find her writing stories, reading books, playing D&D, or doing yoga when she’s not researching cases filled with unimaginable horrors and scaring people out of their next camping trip.

  • My husband is a Captain in a major metropolitan city in the Midwest. About 10 years into his career he was driving to work in his personal vehicle, but was in full uniform. He was speeding like all cops do and all of a sudden there is a car behind him flashing ONLY blue lights trying to pull him over. He called dispatch to tell whoever it was to seize the stop. She told him there was no one pulling him over. He told her to get all 6000 cops to his location for back up. The guy was impersonating a police officer pulling over a high ranking cop. Genius.
    What’s scarier……..when they searched his house and cars they had enough to put him in prison for a longtime.
    Great story today, never miss an episode.
    Ps….I’d tell you his name so you can Google fact check it, but I don’t want his name out in public. If I ever find the email address for John I’ll send more details. Could be an interesting case to cover?

    • Jennifer, that is a scary scenario. That would be an interesting case. Who knows how many times someone like that has successfully pulled over someone. Dispictable. Thanks for listening Jennifer!!

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