Yingying Zhang, a Chinese female graduate student who disappeared in broad daylight in Illinois on June 9, is believed dead by the FBI, but her body has yet to be found. The case has been widely reported by both Chinese and American media. On August 19, after more than two months, her whole family — dad, mom, brother, aunt and boyfriend — arrived in the U.S. and appealed to the public, the U.S. President in particular, for help.
Surveillance video shows that Zhang got into a black Saturn on the day she disappeared. On June 30, the police arrested Brendt A. Christensen, 28, a former PhD student and the owner of the car in the video, on charges of kidnapping Yingying Zhang. Christensen admitted that he did offer Zhang a ride, but maintained his innocence. However, the police acquired an audio recording of Christensen discussing abducting Zhang and found Christensen had visited the FetLife.com forum, reading contents like”Perfect abduction fantasy” and “planning a kidnapping.”
Pleading not guilty, Christensen’s trial is scheduled to begin next month but nis attorney told CBS that he intends to ask for a delay in order to go through all the evidence. The legal process could take months or even years.
On August 22, the Zhang family opened a news conference in Illinois and appealed for help in finding Yingying. While Zhang’s mother sobbed throughout the news conference, her father read the family’s petition letter to President Trump. In the letter, they acknowledge the diminishing possibility of finding Yingying alive:
With each passing-by day, the chances of finding Yingying alive decrease. We fervently request that you direct all available federal law enforcement and investigatory resources be used to find our daughter as soon as possible.
Zhang’s family says they will stay in the U.S. until Zhang is found. “Fallen leaves returns to its roots. We need to find her and take her home,” said Zhang’s boyfriend. It is a Chinese tradition to be buried in one’s hometown.
The University of Illinois has launched a ribbon campaign to support the Zhang family and raise awareness about the search for Yingying. Up to $50,000 will be awarded to people who provide information leading to the location of Yingying.
During the news conference, the university gave Zhang’s family replica diaries, while Zhang’s original diary remains in evidence. On the last page of the diary, Zhang wrote in English:
Life is too short to be ordinary.