Accused kidnapper's wife files for divorce

Accused kidnapper's wife files for divorce


CHAMPAIGN — The wife of the man accused of kidnapping and killing a visiting University of Illinois scholar from China has filed for divorce.

Michelle Christensen, 30, filed a petition for dissolution of marriage from her husband, Brendt Christensen, in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in Champaign County.

Brendt Christensen is being held in Livingston County Jail on federal charges of kidnapping resulting in death following the disappearance of visiting UI scholar Yingying Zhang. He faces the death penalty, and his trial date is tentatively set for April 3.

In her petition for divorce, Michelle Christensen cited "irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage; that efforts at reconciliation have failed; and future attempts at reconciliation would be impractical, and not in the best interest of the family."

Michelle Christensen also seeks to change her name back to her maiden name, Zortman, in addition to retaining her premarital property.

The couple do not have any children, according to the filing. They were married on March 12, 2011, in Madison, Wis.

Messages seeking comment from Michelle Christensen's attorney — Lindsay Kearns of Weaver, Kearns and Bergstrom — were not immediately returned.

Messages for Brendt Christensen's federal public defenders also were not returned. It's unclear if he has representation in his divorce case.

Brendt Christensen also had a girlfriend, who assisted the FBI in the case by wearing a wire to record him, according to federal documents.