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Slain Chinese scholar's dad says her body may never be found

Updated: 2019-08-08 07:47

A 2017 file photo shows a memorial at the site where University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student Zhang Yingying was last seen, in Urbana in 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

URBANA, Ill. - The father of a slain Chinese scholar who begged his daughter's killer to reveal what he did with her remains said Wednesday that, after learning her dismembered body might be in plastic bags buried in a landfill under mounds of garbage, he understood that his family may never get to bury her back home in China.

There is "nothing we want more than to find our daughter and bring her home, (but) we understand that may be impossible," Zhang Ronggao said through an interpreter at his family lawyer's Urbana office.

As he spoke to reporters, his wife, Ye Lifeng, sat weeping nearby, unable to bring herself to speak after just learning what had happened to the remains of her daughter, Zhang Yingying.

The family had shielded her from the gruesome news for weeks, but their attorney said she insisted on knowing.

"We have decided to follow the Chinese custom and create a grave site here in America to honor Yingying's memory," said Zhang Ronggao, who had begged his daughter's killer to reveal what he did with his daughter's body.

The news conference came days after the family's lawyer, Steve Beckett, announced that he had learned from Brendt Christensen's defense team that Zhang's dismembered body was somewhere in a landfill, giving the family a sliver of hope that it could be found.

But Beckett explained in gruesome detail on Wednesday why that might never happen, even suggesting that any remains "could be smaller than a cellphone."

Christensen, 30, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison last month in the June 2017 kidnapping and killing of Zhang Yingying, a 26-year-old visiting Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois.

Beckett explained that, after Christensen was convicted, prosecutors explained to the Zhang family and their lawyers what Christensen's attorneys said he told them about what he had done.

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