CHICAGO, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. federal judge on Monday set a new trial date for the man suspected of kidnapping and killing visiting Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying, local media reported.
At a scheduling hearing in a federal courthouse of Illinois state, U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce set the trial for April 2, 2019. Neither the prosecutors nor the defense attorneys objected the new schedule.
Brendt Christensen, 28, is charged with kidnapping, resulting in the death of visiting Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) on June 9, 2017. He attended the hearing but did not speak on the spot. The suspect will be held in jail until the trial.
On Jan. 19, the U.S. government filed a notice of intent on the website of the Department of Justice to seek death penalty against Christensen. After that, both sides agreed that a delay of the trial previously scheduled for Feb. 27 would be necessary.
Zhidong Wang, the legal consultant to Zhang's family, told Xinhua that his clients felt sorry and disappointed at the delay. But at the same time, Zhang's families had known the trial might come later than the previous plan, and thus were willing to respect the court's decision.
According to Wang, the delay was expected by both the prosecutors and defense attorneys. While the prosecutors had wanted the next trial to be held in October this year, the defense attorneys had asked the date to be in June 2019.
Wang said the new trial date of April will give defense attorneys enough time to make necessary preparations, potentially preventing defense attorneys from asking for another delay in the future. Hereby, Zhang's families would have less trouble when it comes to planning their travel to the United States to attend the trial.
Zhang, 26, went missing on June 9 after she got into a black Saturn Astra about five blocks from where she got off a bus on her way to an apartment complex to sign a lease.
Christensen was arrested on June 30 after being caught on tape pointing out people he described as "ideal victims" during a vigil in Zhang's honor. On July 5, U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric I. Long ordered that Christensen remain detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending trial.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the UIUC Police Department jointly conducted the investigation.