Former Illinois doctoral student gets life in prison for Chinese scholar's death

Courtesy: Macon County Sheriff's Office
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PEORIA, Ill. (AP) -- A former University of Illinois doctoral student was sentenced to life in prison for the abduction, rape and killing of a scholar from China after a federal jury failed to agree on a death sentence.

The jurors returned their decision on Thursday after deliberations in the sentencing of 30-year-old Brendt Christensen. The life sentence is automatically applied if even one juror opposes execution.

The same jurors took less than 90 minutes to convict Christensen last month in the June 2017 killing of Yingying Zhang.

Prosecutors described how Christensen raped, choked and stabbed Zhang before beating her to death and decapitating her. Christensen has never revealed what he did with Zhang's remains.

The defense sought to humanize Christensen, including by showing video of him as a child.