Christensen confessed to the brutal murder in a confession he gave his girlfriend, Terra Bullis, even bragging about the murder. Christensen was in an open marriage with Michelle Zortman.
The story of Zhang’s tragic death is being retold on ABC 20/20 in an encore episode that airs Friday, June 12, 2020 at 9 p.m. Now, Zhang’s family is still looking for closure.
“Yingying is gone. I won’t tell you where she is. I won’t tell anyone where she is,” he said, according to the transcript. “The FBI has looked for her. The police and FBI don’t know where she is. I’m apparently very good at this.”
You can read the full transcript of Brendt Christensen’s murder confession here.
Here’s what you need to know:
Brendt Christensen’s Dad, Mike Christensen, Said the Murder Could Have Been Prevented With Earlier Action
Just months before Brendt Christensen brutally murdered Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang, he visited a counseling intern and told her he was experiencing homicidal thoughts. He even told her he had purchased things to commit a murder, although he said he did not think he could go through with a killing because of guilt. Michael Christensen said on ABC 20/20 the University of Illinois did not act responsibly when Christensen sought mental health treatment in March 2017. His stance was a tack his son’s defense team took during his trial. While Christensen was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, he avoided the death penalty.
Christensen said on the show the university should have taken action when he expressed suicidal and homicidal thoughts. His son never went to his second appointment.
“I’m angry that it could’ve been prevented,” he said.
Christensen’s first appointment that March was with an intern training to be a counselor. Their session was recorded, according to ABC 20. When she pressed him about homicidal thoughts, he said he had bought things he could use to kill someone. The intern asked a counselor for help, and she discussed voluntary hospitalization with Christensen. He declined, but agreed to come to another appointment. He downplayed the thoughts and attributed them to alcohol abuse.
“How can somebody that is like this commit a crime like this? It makes no sense,” Mike Christensen told ABC News on 20/20. “Something had to have happened. Something snapped.”
He described his son as a gentle person, and said he never knew him to be violent.
“He has no aggression in him,” Christensen said. “Very gentle, very private, and like all of us, you know, very logical people. My sons, my daughter, myself, we depend upon logic, and so, we can shove our emotions down.”
Michael Christensen Pleaded for His Son’s Life After His Murder Trial
Michael Christensen tearfully pleaded with a jury not to sentence his son to death, according to CBS Chicago. Christensen’s mom, Ellen Williams, and sister, Andrea Christensen, also spoke at the sentencing. Williams said she loved her son and Andrea said she always looked up to her brother. Read more about Brendt Christensen’s family here.
“Brendt Christensen and his father broke down in tears Wednesday as Michael Christensen pleaded with jurors to spare his son’s life for killing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang, saying ‘he has too much to offer,'” CBS Chicago reported.
He told the news station he struggled with thoughts of his son dying by lethal injection.
“A couple days ago, I had a flash of him on the table, getting injected,” he said. “I had to put it away.”
Christensen said his son had a longtime struggle with alcohol and attempted suicide at 15.
“He knew he was trying to kill himself, but he could not explain why,” he said.
Christensen also apologized to Zhang’s family, CBS Chicago reported, saying “I am just so sorry that my son was the cause of the pain.”