Defenders of a former graduate student from the University of Illinois admitted to the jury on Wednesday that their client brutally beat and killed a foreign student from China, but stressed that in such a case, he "faces trial for his life." could justify the death penalty.
"Brendt Christensen has killed Yingying Zhang," said Christensen's lawyer, George Tesseff, to the jury, although he denies key details in the prosecutor's version of events that led to the death of the 26-year-old aspiring professor.
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The prosecution claims Christensen, a 29-year-old former physics student, was obsessed months before by serial killers. She attacked Zhang on June 9, 201
Zhang, who had only been in the US for two months and did not speak fluent English, had to.
Christensen drove Zhang to his home, where he tied and raped her in his bedroom and later stabbed her, as blood spatters in his room showed. Zhang, dainty at eight, tried to fight back, but Christensen choked on her. He later dragged her to his bathroom, beat her with a baseball bat and "split it open," prosecutor Eugene Miller said. Then he beheaded her and disposed of her corpse, which was never found.
The prosecution will have to prove that Zhang is dead without a corpse Christensen's apartment points out that a body was there.
Zhang's parents traveled to the US from China to help find their daughter after their disappearance in 2017, and returned to Illinois along with Zhang's friend for the trial.  Christensen's girlfriend helped the FBI secure his arrest by wearing a wire, and he was arrested on his birthday, June 30, 2017. She will witness the prosecution in the process.
Miller Dropped a Bomb in Opening Statements When he told the court that Christensen was caught trying to intercept the FBI, who boasted that he had killed 12 more people in front of Zhang, he said that this was still the case Authorities must be justified.
Defense lawyer Te sseff rejected these allegations and said his client was a heavy drinker and drunk when he made these statements.
Christensen faces the death penalty if convicted of murder, marking the first death penalty case since Illinois's death penalty expulsion.
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The jury consists of 12 people who believe in the death penalty, criteria that must be met in a federal death penalty case.
The Associated Press has contributed to this report.