Bloody handprint among evidence in missing Chinese scholar's case


    Brendt Christensen (FILE)

    As prosecutors build their case against accused kidnapper Brendt Christensen, they claim a bloody handprint was found in his apartment.

    Christensen is accused of kidnapping and killing missing University of Illinois visiting scholar Yingying Zhang.

    It's not clear whether the handprint was Yingying's or Christensen's, but prosecutors also say a cadaver sniffing canine detected traces of a dead body in the bathroom of Christensen's apartment.

    Federal prosecutors plan to use these findings as evidence in the case, saying it coincides with recordings they have of Christensen, where he's heard talking about what exactly happened in that apartment.

    The court document states, "The defendant has made recorded statements that he took the victim to his apartment and engaged in conduct that would result in her bleeding in the apartment."

    The FBI has presumed Yingying dead since shortly after her disappearance on June 9, 2017. Although her body has never been found.

    Prosecutors believe the evidence found at Christensen's apartment will help prove his alleged role in Yingying's death.

    In a previously filed motion, the defense asked the court to dismiss this evidence, challenging the reliability of the blood and DNA findings.

    A judge will hear arguments from both sides on Monday, Feb. 11. before making a final ruling.

    Jury questionnaire:

    U.S. District Court Judge James Shadid approved the list of questions prospective jurors will answer ahead of trial.

    The questionnaire, of about 120 questions, was much debated by the prosecution and defense as jury selection is a crucial part of any capital punishment case.

    "What you try to do is figure out as much of the characteristics about an individual juror as you possibly can," said Steve Beckett, an Urbana attorney representing Yingying's family. "That might be based on what movies they see, what TV they watch, what magazines they read, what newspapers they read, are they church goers? We're not really going to get into religion, but do they have religious principles that may affect their feelings about the death penalty?"

    Jury selection is set to begin April 1, with the trial to follow.

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