The Latest: Judge berates China scholar’s killer

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) – The Latest on the sentencing in scholar’s slaying (all times local):

5:20 p.m.

A federal judge has castigated an ex-University of Illinois student for showing no remorse for his slaying of a scholar from China and for not apologizing to his victim’s family.

Judge James Shadid spoke Thursday as he sentenced Brendt Christensen to life in prison hours after jurors couldn’t agree on whether the 30-year-old should be put to death for killing 26-year-old Yingying Zhang. He abducted, raped her and beat her to death with a bat before decapitating her.

He chastised Christensen for declining an invitation to speak at sentencing, which was a formality after the jury deadlocked – resulting in the mandatory life sentence.

Shadid said Christensen’s “inexplicable act of violence” was done to “fulfill self-absorbed fantasies.” And given a chance to speak Thursday, he said Christensen “could not muster a simple `I’m sorry.”‘

Christensen sat stoned faced looking straight ahead, not at the judge.

4:45 p.m.

The family of a Chinese scholar abducted and killed by an Illinois man says that they do not agree with a jury’s decision sentence him to life in prison rather than death.

Ronggao Zhang, the father of Yingying Zhang, delivered a statement translated into English after a jury sentenced his daughter’s killer, Brendt Christensen, to life in prison without parole.

Ronggao Zhang appealed to Christensen to reveal where her body is so that the family can take her remains back to China.

Speaking of Christensen, he said: “If you have any humanity left in your soul, please end our torment. Please let us bring Yingying home.”

A federal jury was unable to agree whether to impose the death penalty on Christensen, meaning that he will serve life in prison without parole.

3:25 p.m.

A man convicted of slaying a visiting Chinese scholar dropped his head when he heard that his own life would be spared, smiled and looked to see his mother say that she loved him.

Brendt Christensen’s will serve a sentence of life in prison because a federal jury said Thursday it could not unanimously agree he should receive the death penalty in the 2017 abduction, rape and killing of 26-year-old Yingying Zhang.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty cited graphic details of how Christensen abducted her, took her home and beat her to death with a baseball bat before decapitating her. Her body has never been found.

Zhang’s parents did not immediately react when they heard the news that Christensen’s life would be spared. But Zhang’s mother watched Christensen closely as he hugged his lawyers and looked back smiling at his mother before she and Zhang’s father walked solemnly out of the courtroom.

2:50 p.m.

A former University of Illinois doctoral student is facing life in prison in the abduction, rape and killing of a scholar from China after a federal jury failed to agree on a death sentence.

The jurors returned their decision on Thursday after deliberations in the sentencing of 30-year-old Brendt Christensen. The life sentence is automatically applied if even one juror opposes execution.

The same jurors took less than 90 minutes to convict Christensen last month in the June 2017 killing of Yingying Zhang.

Prosecutors described how Christensen raped, choked and stabbed Zhang before beating her to death and decapitating her. Christensen has never revealed what he did with Zhang’s remains.

The defense sought to humanize Christensen, including by showing video of him as a child.

2:15 pm.

Jurors have reached a verdict on whether an ex-University of Illinois doctoral student should be put to death for slaying a 26-year-old scholar from China.

The verdict was to be announced Thursday afternoon in the penalty stage of the case against Brendt Christensen.

Jurors went home after three hours Wednesday without a decision on whether he should die or spend the rest of his life behind bars for abducting Yingying Zhang, raping her and beating her to death with a bat. They spent about five hours deliberating Thursday.

The same jurors took less than 90 minutes to convict Christensen at his trial last month.

9 a.m.

Jurors have resumed deliberations on whether an ex-University of Illinois doctoral student should be put to death for slaying a 26-year-old scholar from China.

Thursday is the second day of deliberations in the penalty stage of the federal case against Brendt Christensen.

Jurors went home after three hours Wednesday without a decision on whether he should die or spend the rest of his life behind bars for abducting Yingying Zhang, raping her and beating her to death with a bat.

The same jurors took less than 90 minutes to convict Christensen at his trial last month.

Their task in the penalty stage is harder. They must answer questions such as whether Christensen displayed unique cruelty in killing Zhang and whether he exhibited redeeming qualities in his life.

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