Timeline: Accused kidnapper's stops included Paxton jail, Rantoul hotel

Timeline: Accused kidnapper's stops included Paxton jail, Rantoul hotel

CHAMPAIGN — In new motions filed Monday, Brendt Christensen's lawyers provided more details about what happened between June 9, when visiting Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang was last seen, and June 30, when Christensen was arrested on charges of kidnapping her.

Christensen has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping resulting in the death of Ms. Zhang and lying to federal agents, and his trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 27.

Here's a look at the new details, according to motions filed by Christensen's lawyers to suppress evidence they believe was obtained illegally or improperly.

— June 9, 9:27 a.m.: Hours before Ms. Zhang was last seen, a female graduate student at the University of Illinois called the UI police to report suspicious activity. She said she was walking on Stoughton Street between Busey and Lincoln avenues when she was approached by a man driving a black sedan.

She said the man claimed to be an undercover cop and asked her to enter his car, which she didn't do.

Three days later, after Ms. Zhang was last seen, this woman was asked to describe the man who approached her, and later was asked to identify him out of an array of six photos that included a photo of Christensen.

Christensen's lawyers objected to this testimony because the woman was only shown photos of men with facial hair, despite her describing the man as clean shaven. They also cited other procedural mistakes.

— June 14, about 11:45 p.m.: After receiving a warrant to search Christensen's car, FBI agents knocked on the door of Christensen's apartment in Stonegate Village, waking up both Christensen and his wife.

Christensen was taken to a local FBI office to be interviewed. His lawyers say he said, "I should probably ask for a lawyer in situations like this."

Other agents began interviewing his wife at the apartment.

Christensen's lawyers objected to this search because they say his wife didn't consent to this search until about 2 a.m., after agents had begun searching the apartment and taking photos.

They also argued that the timing and circumstances of the search made Christensen's wife feel like she had no choice but to consent.

— June 15, shortly after midnight: Christensen was taken to an interrogation room and advised of his rights.

An hour and a half into the questioning, Christensen's lawyers said he invoked his rights, saying, "I really don't want to talk no more without a lawyer."

The questioning stopped, and an agent called an assistant U.S. Attorney, who advised agents to hold Christensen in custody, while it was reviewed whether he lied to a federal agent and broke the law.

While waiting to be taken to the Ford County Jail, Christensen was again questioned. In their motion, Christensen's lawyers objected to this set of questioning, as he had invoked his rights.

— June 15, 3:04 a.m.: Christensen was booked into the Ford County Jail in Paxton.

— June 16, shortly after midnight: Christensen was released from custody and taken to a hotel in Rantoul, where he stayed for the night.

— June 16: Later that day, FBI agents met with a "female associate" of Christensen, who agreed to be a "confidential human source" and wear a recording device.

— June 17: FBI agents interviewed Christensen at a local FBI office without counsel present, another interview his lawyers object to.

— June 23: The informant texted Christensen "for the purpose of eliciting incriminating statements from him," his lawyers wrote.

They objected to this, since they say the informant was directed by the same agents "who knew, or should have known, that defendant had twice invoked his Miranda rights."

— June 29: While at the campus vigil for Ms. Zhang, the informant recorded conversations with Christensen, where prosecutors say he explained the "characteristics of an ideal victim."

His lawyers objected to this recording for the same reason they objected to the informant's text messages.

— July 3: After Christensen was arrested June 30, he was taken to the Macon County Jail in Decatur.

While in jail, Christensen's lawyers believe the jail mate in the cell adjacent to Christensen's was an FBI informant.

"The (confidential source) would deliberately ask defendant about his pending federal case and elicit statements from the defendant about it," Christensen's lawyers wrote.

They said statements from these conversations were improperly obtained and violated Christensen's constitutional right to counsel and against self-incrimination.

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zofaan wrote on January 16, 2018 at 6:01 pm

My current working theory is that this unknown woman (someone has to know who she is) was somehow tangentially involved in all this. I don't think she was involved in the actual abduction - or she would be in jail - but I do think Brendt confided in her about it. Maybe he met her through FetLife and is in to all this BDSM stuff. I think maybe the FBI threatened to charge as an accessory or something like that, but offered her immunity if she would be an informant and help them nail Christensen. I don't think his wife had anything to do with the kidnapping, although she is probably aware of his sexual proclivities.  

If he just saw those 2 cameras he would have gotten away with this. Bragging about it to everyone, even after getting caught, doesn't help his case either. Narcissism is a part of the profile of psycopathy, so maybe he just can't help himself. 

Without a body, the FBI better have strong forensics. Just him being an idiot on tape and LE noticing a cracked hubcap and clean passenger seat is not going to cut it.