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Episode 104: Brendt Christensen FBI interview

On the afternoon of June 9, 2017, Ms. Yingying Zhang, 26, a Chinese student at the  University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, went missing after she was offered a ride while waiting at a bus stop. She was last seen on a surveillance tape, around 2.30pm, getting into a black Saturn Astra. Police traced the Astra to Brendt Christensen, 28, a former physics grad student who was, at the time, unemployed after dropping out of a PhD program.

This episode contains part of the FBI interview with Brendt Christensen that took place on June 15, six days after Ms. Yingying’s disappearance. This is his second interview. After some pressing, he admits that he gave an Asian female a ride the previous weekend, but said he dropped her off after only a few blocks when a wrong turn caused her to panic. He also explained that he was married, that he and his wife were in an open relationship with another couple, and that she had been out of town with her boyfriend the day Ms. Yingying went missing.

After this questioning, the FBI agents took possession of Christensen’s computers and cellphone, and placed him under continuous surveillance. They also asked his girlfriend, Terra Bullis, to wear a wire. On June 29, Christensen attended a memorial walk for Ms. Yingying with his girlfriend. Later, he confessed to Terra that he had picked up Ms. Yingying, brought her back to his apartment, and held her there against her will.

Christensen’s trial took place in June 2019. He had no had no prior criminal record and no record of disciplinary problems at the university. The FBI report on his cellphone noted that in April, he used his cellphone to access the sexual fetish website Fetlife, and visited the forum “Abduction 101.” At the trial, it was revealed that Christensen admitted he had raped, assaulted, and decapitated Ms. Yingying. Her body has still not been found. Christensen is about to be sentenced, and the prosecution is pushing for the death penalty.

Warning: audio ends abruptly.

Listen to the episode here.