Washington (AFP) – US prosecutors announced Friday they will seek the death penalty for a man accused of kidnapping and torture in the death of a visiting scholar from China, after President Donald Trump’s administration called for using capital punishment in more cases.
Zhang Yingying, 26, was kidnapped on June 9, 2017, after allegedly getting into a car driven by Brendt Christensen in Urbana, Illinois, where she was conducting research at the University of Illinois.
Her body remains missing but authorities believe she is dead.
Court documents said Christensen, 28, who faces a charge of kidnapping resulting in a death, carried out the crime “in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner, in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse to the victim,” and that it occurred after “substantial planning and premeditation.”
In the United States, homicides are usually tried by the states in which they occur, and Illinois does not have the death penalty.
But the federal government can request the death penalty for certain crimes with aggravating circumstances.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently instructed federal prosecutors to push for the death penalty in more cases.
Trump recently called for a death sentence for Sayfullo Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan who drove a rented truck down a busy bike and pedestrian path in New York in October, killing eight people and injuring 12.