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The Latest: Zhang family says no promise body would be found

June 26, 2019
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Lifeng Ye, the mother of slain University of Illinois scholar Yingying Zhang, cries out in grief as her husband Ronggao Zhang, far left, addresses the media after a jury found Brendt Christensen guilty of her murder Monday, June 24, 2019 outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Peoria, Ill. Consoling her is her son Zhengyang Zhang, far right, and family friend Dr. Kim Tee. (Matt Dayhoff/Journal Star via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — The Latest on the offer by a former U of I student to locate body in exchange for a life sentence (all times local):

3:25 p.m.

The family of a scholar from China killed by a former University of Illinois doctoral student says they’re aware he offered to divulge where her remains were but weren’t convinced the body would actually be found.

A Wednesday statement from Yingying Zhang’s relatives says they were “leery” of Brendt Christensen’s offer “because he had lied so many times in the past.”

The defense said in a Tuesday filing that Christensen made the offer, asking for a life sentence in exchange.

Jurors convicted Christensen Monday in a federal death-penalty trial of kidnapping Zhang in 2017 and beating her to death.

Tuesday’s defense filing asks the judge to bar statements at an upcoming death-penalty phase that suggest Christensen refused to locate Zhang’s remains.

Zhang’s relatives said they “respect the decisions that have been made” by prosecutors.

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12:20 p.m.

Lawyers for a former University of Illinois doctoral student convicted of killing a scholar from China says he offered after his arrest to divulge where her remains are in exchange for a life sentence.

The revelation came in a late Tuesday filing. Jurors convicted Brendt Christensen Monday of kidnapping Yingying Zhang in 2017, raping and beating her to death with a bat. Her body was never found.

Legal observers had expected Christensen to use the whereabouts of Zhang’s remains as a bargaining chip to get federal prosecutors to abandon any push for the death penalty. There was no word he tried until now.

The filing asks the judge to bar statements at an upcoming sentencing phase suggesting Christensen refused to locate Zhang’s remains.

Prosecutors declined comment.

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