Brendt Christensen found guilty on all counts in Yingying Zhang murder trial

Monday's verdict comes with pain as Brendt Christensen is found guilty on all counts in the murder of University of Illinois student Yingying Zhang.

"I want to bring my daughter home," pleaded Zhang's mother, Lifeng Ye.

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Brendt Christensen has been found guilty on all counts in the murder case of Yingying Zhang.



The jury deliberated less than two hours Monday.

"Relieved. Proud of the justice system in the U.S. that it's bringing justice to a family that very much deserves it and has wanted it so badly," said Robin Kaler, spokesperson for University of Illinois.

Christensen is accused of killing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang at the University of Illinois in 2017. Now convicted, Christensen could face the death penalty.

Christensen, a former physics grad student at U of I, is accused of picking up Zhang at a campus bus stop. Prosecutors said he raped and tortured her in his apartment before secretly disposing of her body.

As the guilty verdicts were read, Christensen didn't flinch. His demeanor similar during eight days of testimony as the prosecution painted him as a "cold, calculating" killer who tortured Zhang and tried to hide his crime. Her body has yet to be found.

"When the family first came here, their wish was to find Yingying and bring her home," said the Zhang family's attorney Zhidong Wang. "That's still, that's still their hope."

"(Christensen) had a dark desire to kill for the sake of killing," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller in his closing arguments Monday. "He wanted a certain type of woman. A petite woman who could easily be disposed of."

The jury was reminded of the evidence video showing Christensen picking up the visiting Chinese scholar the last time she was seen.

Zhang's DNA was also found inside his Champaign apartment.

Christensen's recorded words describing in gruesome detail the kidnapping and murder. The claims made in that audio related to allegations of torture and premeditation could be at the heart of the trial's next phase which will decide whether Christensen lives or dies.

"He kidnapped her, he murdered her, and covered up his crime," Miller said, echoed a line from his opening statement. "He didn't know her by name but her name wasn't important to him."

The defense arguing those disturbing details were alcohol-fueled embellishments.

"It's awful. It's horrible. It makes you want to hate him," defense attorney Elisabeth Pollock said," but that emotion cannot overcome the facts."

Christensen's defense team has acknowledged he kidnapped and killed Zhang.

"We were not going to contest the fact that it happened," Pollock said in her closing argument.

But Pollock disputed the prosecution's allegations of torture and premeditation, important factors that could determine if Christensen is sentenced to death.

Referring to audio recordings in which Christensen is heard describing disturbing details of the murder, Pollock said, "The government is asking you to assume that all the things Brendt said on that tape are true. But we know there are problems with that."

"It's awful. It's horrible. It makes you want to hate him. But that emotion cannot overcome the facts," Pollock continued.

On Friday, Brent Christensen's former wife testified. She explained how the former PHD student suffered from substance abuse and depression leading up to the murder of Zhang.

WATCH: Brendt Christensen's ex-girlfriend testifies about wire recording made at vigil
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Accused killer Brendt Christensen's ex-girlfriend provided remarkable, and at time graphic, testimony to the jury on Thursday in his trial for the murder of University of Illinois



She also told the court that she found a large blood stain on Christensen's mattress, but when she asked what it was from he blamed it on a nosebleed. Investigators later found Zhang's DNA on that mattress.

Brendt Christiansen is charged with kidnapping resulting in death and two counts of false statements.

The 27-year-old Chinese scholar's body has never been found.

Christiansen is set to be sentenced in two weeks.

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