A jury in Illinois has found Brendt Christensen guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign scholar Yingying Zhang.
The court was told that Christensen, 29, beat the 26-year-old Chinese student to death using a baseball bat and decapitated her in June 2017, the BBC reported.
The jury reached the verdict after less than two hours on Monday and will decide if Christensen will be sentenced to death.
The process is set to begin on July 8, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Christensen’s ex-girlfriend, Terra Bullis, testified that he bragged about killing Zhang. He reportedly confessed to murdering Zhang while they were attending a vigil for the student after she went missing.
Bullis said Christensen typed a note on her phone: “It was me. She is gone. Forever.”
She added that she wore a wire for the FBI to record her exchange with Christensen.
The audio in which Christensen described in detail how he sexually assaulted and killed Zhang by choking her, beating her with a bat, stabbing her and then decapitating her was played for jurors in court last week.
“Although he raped her, this was not about sex, though he tortured her, this was not about BDSM,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller said in closing arguments. “This was always about murder.”
Christensen’s former wife also testified on Friday and explained how he suffered from substance abuse and depression before the murder of Zhang, ABC7 Chicago reported.
She told the court that she discovered blood stain on Christensen’s mattress which he blamed on a nosebleed. Zhang’s DNA was later found on that mattress.
Zhang’s father called the verdict a “step towards justice.”
“We have missed Yingying tremendously in the past two years,” said in a translated statement. “As of today, we still could not imagine how we will live the rest of our lives without her. There is no language that can describe our pain and suffering.”