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Photos of Yingying Zhang are seen on a tree along North Goodwin Avenue outside of Campbell Hall on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana.

PEORIA — At Thursday's sentencing, Judge Jim Shadid directly addressed Brendt Christensen, who chose not to make a statement.

“The mercy extended to you by the jury is a testament to their humanity, not your character,” he said. “In effect the failure to reach a unanimous decision is actually a death sentence, but a natural death as opposed to the death you imposed on Yingying Zhang.”

Christensen sentence: Life in prison

And he blasted Christensen for never once saying “I’m sorry.”

“Your complete and total lack of remorse was not lost on anyone and emphasized one more time today when given the opportunity to speak, and not subject to any cross examination, you could have said whatever you wanted to say for as little or as long as you wished. And yet today, 769 days after took Yingying’s life, you could not muster a simple ‘I’m sorry.’”

And he encouraged him “when you are taken out of here today by the United States Marshal’s, to wait for that lonely, isolated and cold deathbed that follows your natural life in prison and maybe ... just maybe ... the moment will strike you to pick up paper and pen and write ‘I’m sorry’ to Mr. and Mrs. Zhang.”

In addition to the life in prison sentence, he was sentenced to 10 years after life on the two counts of lying to the FBI, the maximum. He also was fined $750,000, also the maximum, in the event he somehow makes some money.

Judge Shadid also addressed Ms. Zhang’s family. “The Zhang family, who may never know where their daughter’s remains now rest must live with the thought that Yingying was ripped away from them by a total stranger, thousands of miles away, fulfilling his self-absorbed and selfish fantasies with no regard, yet to this day, for anyone other than himself.

“I hope there is some comfort for you, although small by comparison, that there were many heroes that made it possible for the defendant to be caught and to be brought to justice.”

He noted the UIPD, FBI, Emily Hogan “for not getting into his car and then calling the police and later providing crucial information.”

And Terra Bullis “for showing more courage than the defendant could ever muster to help law enforcement bring him to this day of judgment and spoiling the defendant’s goal of getting away with murder.”

He said Ms. Zhang’s family has conducted themselves “with dignity and honor and you have my utmost respect and admiration, and as well, my deepest sorrow for your loss.”

Reporter

Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is bzigterman@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).