Missing UI scholar's family 'will not leave ... without her'

Missing UI scholar's family 'will not leave ... without her'

Listen to Friday's news conference here

CHAMPAIGN — Family members of missing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang vowed Friday to remain in this country until she’s found.

“We know Yingying wants to be with us, and will not leave the United States without her,” said Xiaolin Hou, Ms. Zhang’s boyfriend.

Hou read a statement on behalf of the family at the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute, appealing to the community for help and announcing an increase in the reward being offered by Champaign County Crime Stoppers from $40,000 to $50,000 for information leading to Ms. Zhang’s whereabouts.

Hou expressed gratitude and thanks to several attorneys and organizations that have been helping the family and appreciation to UI police, the FBI, Illinois state police, the U.S. Attorney and Crime Stoppers.

“But our number one priority is to find Yingying, and for that, we need your help,” he said. “If you have any information that might help investigators find Yingying, please help us by sharing it anonymously with Crime Stoppers.”

Along with Hou, Ms. Zhang’s father, Ronggao Zhang, was present for the announcement and read the family’s statement in Chinese. Also there was Ms. Zhang’s aunt Liqin Ye. The family wasn’t available for questions.

“We were devastated when Yingying went missing, and the revelation that someone likely kidnapped her has been heartbreaking,” Hou said. “We continue to maintain hope that she has survived this horrible ordeal until we find her. We want to bring her home.”

Local Crime Stoppers President John Hecker said the reward money is currently under the control of the family, and will be transferred to Crime Stoppers if a reward is to be paid.

“We would consider additional reward if anyone can bring her back safely,” Hou said.

Hecker said the increase from $40,000 to $50,000 makes this the largest reward offer in Crime Stoppers history, and reflects how seriously Crime Stoppers regards this case.

After the announcement of the $40,000 reward last month, Crime Stoppers saw a noteworthy spike in response coming in through its tips line, he said.

This reward is separate from one also being offered by the FBI for information, Hecker said. But tips offered through Crime Stoppers are done anonymously, while the FBI will want to know the identify of an informant, he said.

Crime Stoppers is making a major thrust in the community for anonymous tipsters to come forward with any information about Ms. Zhang’s whereabouts, no matter how small the information, Hecker said.

“Now an arrest has been made, but the case is not over,” he said.

Authorities have said Ms. Zhang is presumed to be dead, and former UI grad student Brendt Christensen was indicted Wednesday in connection with her kidnapping.

Anonymous tips can be made to Crime Stoppers about this case by calling 217-373-8477. Tips can also be made anonymously online at 373tips.com, or by using a free smartphone app called “P3 Tips.”


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