The parents of a University of Illinois visiting scholar from China who was abducted and killed in 2017 are set to give at least $20,000 to the “heroes” who helped authorities capture and convict killer Brendt Allen Christensen.
The amount will reportedly come from the $161,000 raised from over 3,500 people by the GoFundMe campaign set up when the student named Yingying Zhang disappeared on June 2017, reports the Associated Press.
As a recent update on the campaign page noted, part of the money will help to pay for the family’s “final U.S. expenses” while an amount of $30,000 will be used as an endowment through the University of Illinois Foundation called “Yingying’s fund.” The foundation was created to help support international students and their families in times of crisis.
Steven Beckett, a lawyer who represents the Zhang family, did not elaborate on who would receive the reward money or how it might be distributed among them. However, it has been speculated that among those who helped win the case in the family’s favor, Terra Bullis and Emily Hogan are the two likely candidates to be rewarded.
Bullis, Christensen’s ex-girlfriend, wore a wire for the FBI and testified during the trial against the 29-year-old former University of Illinois doctoral student. In the recorded conversations she presented in court, Christensen can be heard telling Bullis how he killed the 26-year-old Zhang. He even explained to her how he raped and beat the victim to death.
Meanwhile, Hogan also testified in court, revealing how she was approached by Christensen on the same day he offered Zhang a ride and then kidnapped her. According to Hogan, after she refused to get into Christensen’s car, she called the police and then later identified Christensen in a photo lineup.
On July 18, 2019, over two years after his arrest, Christensen was convicted of killing Zhang and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Zhidong Wang, another attorney for the Zhang family, would later praise Bullis and Hogan in a statement.
“Terra’s courage is self-evident, and the assistance she gave to law enforcement was invaluable,” Wang said. “Emily’s willingness to come forward and testify about the defendant’s conduct toward her was also a key part of the case.”
U.S. District Judge James Shadid, the trial’s presiding judge, also praised the women for being among the many “heroes” who helped authorities capture and convict Christensen. He commended Bullis for her willingness to wear a wire for the FBI.
Shadid said Bullis showed “more courage than the defendant could ever muster to help law enforcement bring him to this day of judgment and spoiling the defendant’s goal of getting away with murder.”