Murdered U of I scholar Yingying Zhang's remains disposed of in trash, may never be recovered

The family of a murdered University of Illinois scholar Yingying Zhang spoke at a news conference Wednesday morning about the efforts to locate her remains.

Last month, former University of Illinois graduate student Brendt Christensen was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 2017 murder of Zhang, 26.

Last week, the family's attorney Steve Beckett said federal authorities had reason to believe that former University of Illinois graduate student Brendt Christensen disposed of Zhang's body in a way that her remains ended up in a Vermillion County landfill. He said that Christensen told his attorneys what he did with Zhang after he raped, tortured and killed her in his apartment.

WATCH: Yingying Zhang's family speaks following Brendt Christensen's sentencing
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Yingyng Zhang's family spoke to the media following Brendt Christensen's sentencing.



The disclosure made under an immunity deal with prosecutors that the information would not be used at trial and prosecutors would only disclose it after the trial was over.

Beckett said Christensen said that after killing her, he placed her remains in three separate garbage bags and placed them in a dumpster outside his Urbana apartment.

"On June 12, he placed clothing, backpack, cell phone along with cleaning materials he had used to try to cover up the murder into a large duffel bag. He then drove around Champaign and placed them in various dumpsters, placing the duffel bag in a dumpster at the end," Beckett said.

He said by the time Christensen's attorneys disclosed his statements to federal authorities, the dumpster's contents would have been covered by 30 feet of fill. Because of the complicated nature of a search and the small chance of success, a search has not been undertaken.

The 26-year-old Chinese scholar was kidnapped and killed in June 2017 Christensen, but her body was never found.

Accompanied by other family members, Yingying's parents learned that recovering her remains will be close to impossible as they were compacted and then disbursed in a private landfill in downstate Danville.

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The family of a murdered University of Illinois scholar Yingying Zhang spoke at a news conference Wednesday morning about the efforts to locate her remains.



"To date no search has been undertaken but the Zhang family understands that the authorities are still considering an attempt to locate and recover Yingying's remains," Beckett said.

Runggao Zhang, Yingying's dad, spoke through another attorney saying all he wanted was to bring his daughter home.

WATCH: Interpreter speaks for father of Yingying Zhang
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The father of murdered U of I scholar Yingying Zhang speaks at a news conference Wednesday morning about the efforts to locate her remains.



"If what that man said is true it further confirms he is a heartless and evil person. We condemn his brutal and malicious actions and we hope that he suffers for the rest of his life as he made Yingying suffer in the final moments of her life," he said.

Christensen was sentenced last month to life in federal prison without parole.

Zhang's family said they think it's best to leave it up to law enforcement to determine the feasability of recovering her remains and they understand it may be impossible.

"We want to thank everyone for helping to look for Yingying. Based on what I have been told by the authorities, we think the best thing to do now is to let them look into the feasibility of recovering Yingying's remains," said Yingying's father, Ronggao Zhang through an interpreter. "There is nothing in the world that we want more then to find our daughter and bring her home. We now understand that finding her may be impossible, but if Yingying's remains are ever found, we will return to take her home to China where she belongs."

Meanwhile, a memorial service for Yingying Zhang will be held on Friday, August 9 at First Baptist Church at in Savoy, Illinois at 1 p.m.

After the service, her family will gather privately at the memorial garden at the University of Illinois campus.

The Zhang family is also collaborating with the U of I on a memorial of Yingying to be built on campus in keeping with Chinese tradition. They hope it will bring happiness to visitors like the happiness she brought, they say, to her family and all those that met her.

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