At a courthouse thousands of miles from his home in China, a father pleaded with a killer to tell him where his daughter’s body was last placed.
Her remains were never found.
“Now that the trial is over, and the jury has made its decision, we ask the defendant to unconditionally tell us what he knows about Yingying’s location,” her father, Ronggao Zhang, said in Chinese, according to a translator. “If you have any humanity left in your soul, please help end our torment. Please let us bring Yingying home.”
The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on the death penalty, so a judge imposed the life sentence.
“We respect the decision of the jury,” John Milhiser, US Attorney for the Central District of Illinois, said.
The verdict in June came as no surprise, after Christensen’s attorney said in opening statements of the trial that his client killed Zhang.
Zhang went missing in June 2017, when she was on her way to sign an apartment lease. She was last seen getting into Christensen’s car at a bus stop, according to court documents.
Her family attended the trial and the penalty phase.
“While we do not agree with the result, … we accept that he will spend the rest of his life in prison, which still reflects our loss in a meaningful way,” her father said. “We hope that every day he spends in prison he feels the pain and suffering that we feel for the loss of Yingying.”
Milhiser said the search for her remains continues.
“We have missed Yingying tremendously in the past two years,” Zhang’s family said at his conviction. “Our wish has always been to find Yingying and bring her home, we’ll not give up.”