Yingying’s remains may be almost impossible to recover

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — More grisly details were released regarding the murder case of Yingying Zhang during a Wednesday morning press conference. Zhang family attorneys met with prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois.

In November 2018, Christensen reportedly told his attorneys what he did with Zhang’s remains under a condition of immunity which kept the information from being used during his criminal trial. He admitted putting Zhang’s remains into three garbage bags which he immediately disposed of in the dumpsters of his apartment complex.

The next day, he used a large duffel bag to remove his victim’s personal items including a backpack, cellphone and cleaning supplies. He drove around town and disposed of the items in various dumpsters.

Authorities learned the dumpsters were picked up and taken to a private landfill near Danville. The contents were compacted twice causing any human remains to be “very, very small in size.” Attorney Steve Beckett says he was told they could be smaller than a cell phone.

The private landfill used is described as a half-football field in width. By the time the information was disclosed the contents of the dumpsters would have been covered with 30 feet of fill from any later haulings. It would make any attempt to recover Zhang’s remains “complex, expensive,” and would require federal government oversight because of hazardous materials conditions.

“Any opening of a landfill like this involved hazardous materials, permit regulations and other problems,” said Beckett.

Yingying’s mother learned the details of Christensen’s admission shortly before the press conference. Her family had tried to shield her from the specifics, but she insisted on being present and became visibly distraught at hearing the details. The family was filled in on the information in a private meeting before the news conference began.

Beckett says Christensen’s lawyers did not decide to appeal his case, which means it’s over for good. He doesn’t know the reason why, but speculates that Christensen could be given another trial that could result in a death penalty conviction.

Beckett says the FBI would have started investigating the possible location of Zhang’s remains immediately after learning this information from federal prosecutors. He says he believes the FBI did search dumpsters in June 2017.

The Zhang family says they intend to let authorities determine whether recovering Yingying’s remains is even possible. In the case it isn’t, they’re working with University of Illinois officials to establish a grave site that would be part of Yingying’s current memorial on Goodwin Avenue in Urbana.

“We’re lawyers. We never say anything is impossible or certain, but this is a very difficult task,” said attorney and translator for the family, Zhidong Wang. “The primary goal has always been locate Yingying and bring her home, but also Mr. Zhang stated that we now understand that might be impossible.”

Zhang family attorneys met with prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois.

In November 2018, Brendt Christensen reportedly told his attorneys what he did with Zhang’s remains under a condition of immunity which kept the information from being used during his criminal trial. He admitted putting Zhang’s remains into three garbage bags which he immediately disposed of in the dumpsters of his apartment complex.

The next day, he used a large duffel bag to remove his victim’s personal items including a backpack, cellphone and cleaning supplies. He drove around town and disposed of the items in various dumpsters.

Authorities learned the dumpsters were picked up and taken to a private landfill near Danville. The contents were compacted twice causing any human remains to be “very, very small in size.” Attorney Steve Beckett says he was told they could be smaller than a cell phone.

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