"Give my daughter back!" Yingying's mom cries out in court
Wednesday's hearing for kidnapping suspect, Brendt Christensen, got off to an emotional start.
This was the first time Yingying's mom was in the courtroom, and the first time she saw Christensen in person.
After spotting Christensen in the courtroom, Yingying's mom began sobbing. She repeatedly shouted at him, "Give my daughter back!"
Yingying's family, including her mom, then left the courtroom and did not return-- as these past few months have been all too traumatic for the Zhang family.
Shortly after University of Illinois visiting scholar Yingying Zhang was reported missing on June 9, her family made a promise.
"We will stay here until they find Yingying,” Zhang's aunt, who didn't want to disclose her name, said in a June 2017 interview with Fox Illinois. "So the whole family back in China are hoping [we] can bring Yingying back in China, so we won't leave until we find her"
11 days after her disappearance, Yingying's family broke their silence, telling Fox Illinois how they kept in close contact with Yingying even though she was thousands of miles away.
“When Yingying is in America, we always video chat together,” Zhang’s father, who didn’t want to disclose his name, said in the June 2017 interview.
Despite the arrest of kidnapping suspect, Brendt Christensen, Yingying's loved ones never lost hope.
"I promised Yingying that I will protect her, and I will stay with her,” Zhang’s boyfriend Xiao Lin said at a press conference in August. “Now I missed the first one, but I will never miss the second one.”
Yingying's mom joined her family in the United States just days before the August press conference.
In Seotember, a friend of the Zhang family shared another struggle the family was facing.
Zhang family friend Emily Lux said harsh rumors, coming mostly from members of the Chinese media, had accused Yingying's family of staging the search as a way to make money.
"When we think about how these comments affect the family in so many different ways, not only financially, but also for their safety,” Lux said. “It's been horrifying for the family. they've felt very isolated because of this."
Lux said U of I helped Yingying’s family organize a GoFundMe account to help support them during a difficult time. She said the family is using the money raised for living expenses, visas and are hoping to use it for a private investigator.
The body of Yingying Zhang has not been found, but authorities believe she is dead.
The Zhang family said they will continue their search until they find Yingying, and bring her home.