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The Latest: Judge vets jurors at Illinois kidnapping trial

June 3, 2019
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This undated photo provided by the University of Illinois Police Department shows Yingying Zhang. The parents of the visiting University of Illinois scholar who disappeared two years ago have arrived in Illinois from China for the murder trial of the man accused of abducting and killing her. Former Illinois student Brendt Christensen is charged with Zheng, whose body hasn't been found. He pleaded not guilty and his trial is set to begin Monday, June 3, 2019. (Courtesy of the University of Illinois Police Department via AP)
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This undated photo provided by the University of Illinois Police Department shows Yingying Zhang. The parents of the visiting University of Illinois scholar who disappeared two years ago have arrived in Illinois from China for the murder trial of the man accused of abducting and killing her. Former Illinois student Brendt Christensen is charged with Zheng, whose body hasn't been found. He pleaded not guilty and his trial is set to begin Monday, June 3, 2019. (Courtesy of the University of Illinois Police Department via AP)

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — The Latest on the start of a former University of Illinois graduate student’s trial on charges he kidnapped and killed a visiting scholar. (all times local):

5:05 p.m.

A federal judge in central Illinois is questioning would-be jurors at the death-penalty trial of a former University of Illinois student charged with killing visiting Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang.

One potential juror told the judge on the first day of jury selection Monday that she opposed capital punishment because she said God didn’t approve of vengefulness.

The selection of 12 jurors and six alternates to hear evidence against 29-year-old Brendt Christensen is expected to take more than a week.

Those who categorically oppose the death penalty or who believe it should always be imposed on someone convicted of killing can’t serve as jurors in federal death-penalty cases.

Christensen is accused of luring the 26-year-old Zhang into his car in 2017 as she walked off campus, then later torturing and killing her. He pleaded not guilty.

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11:45 a.m.

The parents of a 26-year-old visiting scholar who went missing in 2017 have arrived at a courthouse in central Illinois for the start of the death-penalty trial of a former University of Illinois graduate student accused of kidnapping and killing their daughter.

TV footage showed Yingying Zhang’s father, mother and brother walking Monday into the federal courthouse in Peoria, where the first step was to start picking jurors to hear evidence against Brendt Christensen. Jury selection is expected to take more than a week.

The family traveled to Illinois from China last week.

Authorities say Christensen tricked or forced 26-year-old Yingying Zhang into his car in June 2017 as she walked off campus, then later tortured and killed her. He pleaded not guilty. Zhang’s body hasn’t been found.

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8:00 a.m.

Trial is set to begin for a former University of Illinois graduate student accused of kidnapping and killing a visiting scholar from China.

The death penalty is possible in the federal case that starts Monday against 29-year-old Brendt Christensen. Authorities say he tricked or forced 26-year-old Yingying Zhang into his car in June 2017. Christensen has pleaded not guilty. He told the FBI he dropped Zhang off after a few blocks. Zhang’s body hasn’t been found.

Jury selection is expected to take about a week. Proceedings are in Peoria, a central Illinois city about 85 miles (135 kilometers) northwest of Champaign, where Zhang was studying at the university’s flagship campus and where she was last seen.

Zhang’s father, mother and brother have flown to Illinois from China for the trial.

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