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UPDATE: 6:30 p.m.

This afternoon, Susan Zoline testified for the defense as an expert in psychology ethics about what she thought University of Illinois counselors could've done. She said "optimal care was not provided."

Zoline said she would've considered his case "serious" after his initial visit March 21, 2017, but not an imminent threat and wouldn't have hospitalized him involuntarily.

But she said they could've asked if they could talk with his psychiatrist who was prescribing him medications he was abusing.

And she said they could've asked him for consent to notify the campus threat response team, though prosecutors said that could backfire. She said it could depend how it was presented to him.

And she said the counselors should have told him, "here's your recommended treatment" instead of asking what treatment he prefers.

Zoline also said she would've reviewed the intern's assessment very closely because the intern would be operating under her license. The counselors seemed unaware this morning of some of the alarming parts of his interview with the intern.

And she said their communications about follow-up care should've mentioned his homicidal and suicidal thoughts, instead of just his alcohol and substance abuse.

He did talk with a counselor nine days later about his homicidal thoughts, but she said his subsequent missed meeting should've then been even more alarming.

She couldn't say the crime could've been prevented if he had better care, but said there's "a possibility that that could have been helpful and may have prevented the tragedy that occurred."

"I don't believe he received the help that he deserved and should've received," she concluded.

On cross, prosecution noted that she's being paid $250 an hour to testify for the defense, trying to claim bias. In response, the defense noted that $250 an hour is low for an expert witness.

UPDATE: 3 p.m.

PEORIA — Court resumed without Brendt Christensen, who was experiencing severe migraines today and was seen rubbing his head this morning.

Judge Jim Shadid asked him if he was OK with court proceeding without him or would prefer a break. “I’d rather leave the courtroom, I suppose,” he said.

The judge agreed to this, telling the jury that Christensen wasn’t feeling well and to not let it sway them either way.

Tom Miebach, a UI counselor, then testified that he met with Christensen to assess his homicidal thoughts on March 30, 2017.

He said Christensen referred to his thoughts as fantasies and didn’t have a specific victim in mind.

He said Christensen expressed hopefulness at the meeting and thought he was getting better and that he hadn’t consumed alcohol in a month.

He said he asked him multiple times if planned harm to anyone and “he always said no,” he said.

UPDATE: 12:15 p.m.

PEORIA — Felicia Li, with the UI Counseling Center, said she consulted with the intern who interviewed Brendt Christensen.

She said they discussed voluntary hospitalization, but Christensen wasn’t willing to do that

She said there was no clear intent and plan for suicide. She called him the next day to make sure he was OK. “I called because I was concerned about his safety,” she said.

They believed that he would return for his next appointment, which he did nine days later.

Jennifer Maupin, a former clinical counselor, then testified. She focused on Christensen’s alcohol issues. She said a group of four clinicians/students reviewed his case.

Maupin met with him and then he met with another counselor, and he was referred to Rosecrance, which he apparently never went to. She said the UI Counseling Center is meant to be for short term care.

Defense lawyers tried to show that UI Counseling Center didn’t follow its own policies. At one point, they were going over the student code with Li, who said, “this is actually the first time I’ve seen the student code.”


PEORIA — Brent Christensen’s ex-wife, Michelle Zortman, testified again for less than an hour on Friday morning. She lives with her mom and flew in to testify under subpoena.

She said they got married in 2011 at a Best Western because she didn’t want a expensive, fancy wedding.

He proposed to her at the Great Wolf Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells.

Christensen sentencing, Day 4: UI psychiatrist barred from testifying because mental-health defense dropped

Zortman said she regretted the joke she made on a jail call during the trial making fun of his ex-girlfriend that wore a wire and testified. She said she was emotional that day and “let that get the better of me.”

On cross-examination, Zortman said she recalled saying in June 2017 that Christensen was selfish, emotionally closed off and a good liar.

Prosecutors asked if Christensen also asked her to wear a red sweater when testifying. She said she couldn’t recall.

On redirect, Pollock asked her if she “picked out her own clothes like a big girl,” and Zortman said yes.

The jury is now hearing from University of Illinois counselors who saw or assessed Christensen in March 2017, when he went there for suicidal and homicidal thoughts.

The defense is trying to show he sought help, but internal policies weren’t followed and that he didn’t receive adequate care.



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