Closings at death-penalty phase in slain scholar case

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) – Prosecutors and defense attorneys are delivering final arguments to jurors on whether a former University of Illinois doctoral student should be sentenced to death for killing a young scholar from China.

Closing arguments Wednesday come after testimony in the death-penalty phase of 30-year-old Brendt Christensen’s case. Jurors will begin deliberating after closings. If they can’t agree unanimously on the death penalty, he’ll go to prison for life.

The same jurors took under 90 minutes to convict him at trial last month for kidnapping 28-year-old Yingying Zhang, raping her and beating her to death with a bat.

Prosecutors have emphasized the brutally of the 2017 slaying. The defense tried to humanize Christensen, showing him in videos as a child.

Zhang’s body was never found and Christensen hasn’t said what he did with the body.

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