Yingying Zhang

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Yingying Zhang (December 21, 1990 - June 2017) was a Chinese visiting scholar at the University of Illinois[1][11][4]


Yingying Zhang

Life and Activities

Zhang is described by her friends and family as bright and studious, fun-loving and outgoing. [14]​ She plays the guitar​ and was the lead singer in a band called 'Cute Horse' at college in China​. One of her favorite songs, is 'The Rose,' a hit in 1980 for American singer Bette Midler​. [15]

She was working in the University of Illinois' Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, researching photosynthesis  and crop productivity at the time of her disappearance. [1]


Her appointment as a visiting scholar runs through April 2018. [10][11][1]



On June 9, 2017, Zhang was reported missing in Urbana, Illinois. [10][4] She was captured on video surveillance getting into a black Saturn Astra at the corner of West Clark Street and North Goodwin Avenue at around 2:04 p.m. on that Friday evening. [10][11][3]


Zhang was last seen wearing a charcoal-colored baseball hat, a pink and white top, jeans, and white tennis shoes. [10][11] She carried a black backpack. [10][4]


Her friends stated that she had gone out to sign an apartment lease. [10][11][4]


The Federal Bureau of Investigation has labeled the case as kidnapping[11][10] At least four FBI agents are in Urbana working on the case. [10][11][4]


They are examining cellphone records and working with ride-hailing companies to see if she may have called for a driver. [10][11][4]


The FBI plans to post information about Zhang on billboards across Illinois, Indianapolis, and St. Louis[10][11][4]


A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that helps the bureau find her. [14]​ Champaign County Crime Stoppers​ has also offered a $40,000 reward in the case. [15]​ 


On June 20, 2017, Zhang's father, Ronggao, aunt, Liqin Ye, and boyfriend flew in from China​ to assist the FBI in the search. [15]​ The family hopes to bring Zhang back to China with them and stay until they find her. [15]


On June 27, 2017, the FBI announced that they have located the Saturn Astra​ seen on surveillance video. [19]​ No other details were released. [19]



On June 30, 2017, Brendt Christensen​ was arrested after he confessed to kidnapping and murdering Zhang, while he was under FBI surveillance. [20]​ [21]



A GoFundMe​ campaign created by the University of Illinois​ Community Credit Union to help Zhang's family with expenses has raised over $78,000 of the initial $30,000 goal. [16][15]


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Created: June 16, 2017, 1:08 a.m.
Last Modified: July 1, 2017, 6:58 a.m.