Report: Remains of slain Chinese scholar could be in Danville landfill

The remains of a Chinese scholar who was abducted and killed by a former University of Illinois student could be in a Vermillion County landfill, according to a report.

Citing information from the Beckett Law Office, WAND News reported that the remains of 26-year-old Yingying Zhang could be in the Danville landfill.

The report states the law office obtained the information through the U.S. Attorney's office, which said the defense team for convicted killer Brendt Christensen disclosed the information as part of an immunity agreement.

The law office announced a press conference at 3 p.m. but postponed it until next week. A concrete date and trine have not been set yet.

Christensen was sentenced to life in prison after abducting Zhang in 2017 from a bus stop. Prosecutors say he beat her to death at his off-campus apartment, decapitated her and carried her away in a large duffel bag.

State and federal officials conducted widespread searches for Zhang's remains for months to no avail, according to an FBI agent who testified at the trial. They combed the Murdock coal mine and looked in parks and trash bins around Champaign, the university town 140 miles (225 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.

Zhang's parents have repeatedly appealed to Christensen to tell them what he did with their daughter's body, describing how important a proper burial is viewed in Chinese culture to provide peace to the dead.

Zhang's father, Ronggao Zhang, begged for that information again after jurors couldn't agree on imposing the death penalty. "If you have any humanity left in your soul, please end our torment," he said through a translator outside court.

Christensen had an opportunity to divulge where the remains were during his sentencing, with nothing to lose, after he received a mandatory prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Zhang had been in Illinois for just three months - her only time living outside China. The daughter of working-class parents, she aspired to become a professor in crop sciences to help her family financially. Friends and family described her as caring and fun-loving.

"The tragic truth is Yingying is gone," prosecutor Eugene Miller said during closing arguments in the trial. "There is only one person responsible - and he sits right there."

The Associated Press contributed context to this report.