PEORIA, Ill. (WGN) -- The FBI is investigating the claim by a former University of Illinois doctoral student that the visiting scholar from China he's charged with killing was his 13th victim, even though no evidence has been found to indicate whether he was telling the truth, an FBI agent testified Monday.
"We are continuing to investigate," Agent Andrew Huckstadt said during Brendt Christensen's federal murder trial, pointing out that not being able to corroborate the claim Christensen made to his girlfriend shortly after he allegedly killed Yingying Zhang in June 2017 is "not the same as saying it's completely impossible."
Prosecutor Eugene Miller claimed in opening remarks last week that Christensen, who is over 6 feet tall, took Zhang to his apartment, where he raped, choked and stabbed her in his bedroom, as the 5-foot-4 Zhang tried to fight him off. Christensen then dragged Zhang into his bathroom, and pummeled her in the head with the bat before decapitating her, Miller said.
The beginning of the second week of Christensen's murder trial began as the first week ended — with the focus on conversations between Christensen and his girlfriend that were secretly recorded, while authorities were conducting a massive manhunt for Zhang. Authorities say the woman agreed to be a confidential source for law enforcement shortly after Christensen posed as an undercover officer to lure 26-year-old Zhang into his car as she headed to sign a lease off campus, and kidnapped her.
On Friday, the federal jury listened to the recordings, hearing Christensen describe in gruesome detail how after he brought Zhang to his apartment, hit her in the head with a baseball bat, tried to choke her, stabbed her and finally decapitated her.
In the tape, Christensen never explicitly claimed that he killed 12 other people. However, he can be heard telling his girlfriend that she isn't in danger of becoming his next victim, explaining that she is too big. "It's about getting rid of 100 pounds versus 150 pounds," he said. "That's too much ... to get rid of."
Christensen was married at the time of the recordings, but he had a girlfriend and his wife had a boyfriend in what the prosecutor told jurors last week was their agreement to have "an open marriage" where they dated others.