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A federal grand jury indicted Brendt Christensen on Wednesday for kidnapping Chinese visiting scholar Zhang Yingying last month, federal prosecutors said.
Acting US Attorney Patrick D. Hansen and FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Cox of Springfield Division announced the indictment on the website of the US Department of Justice.
The preliminary hearing that had been scheduled on July 14 for the case has been canceled. The date for Christensen's arraignment will be scheduled by the US Clerk of the Court near the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) campus.
The indictment alleges that Christensen kidnapped and held Zhang on June 9. The penalty for kidnapping is up to life in prison if convicted.
Christensen was previously arrested and charged by criminal complaint on June 30. On July 5, U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric Long ordered that Christensen remain detained in custody pending trial.
Zhang was last seen entering a black Saturn Astra on June 9. According to an affidavit previously filed with the court, the car allegedly driven by Christensen had stopped next to Zhang at an intersection in Champaign, and then pulled away.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), University of Illinois Police Department and the Illinois State Police believe Zhang is deceased, based on evidence presented in court and other facts uncovered during the ongoing investigation.
The US Attorney's Office, Urbana Division, reminds the public that an indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.