U of I to honor investigators of Chinese scholar’s death

Yingying Zhang

Three law enforcement officials will be honored for their work investigating the killer of a visiting Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois.

Sgt. James Carter, Detective Eric Stiverson and telecommunicator Kenny Costa of the University of Illinois Police Department will be awarded the Chancellor’s Medallion at a ceremony Feb. 24 in Champaign.

The award is the highest honor given by the university and has been awarded seven times.

Brendt Christensen was convicted and sentenced to life in prison last year in the June 2017 kidnapping of Yingying Zhang. She was a graduate student who had recently arrived at the school’s campus.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports that Costa watched hours of security camera footage after Zhang was reported missing, eventually finding video of her getting into a black Saturn Astra.

Carter was credited for spotting a crack on one of the car’s hubcaps, allowing investigators to focus on Christensen.

Stiverson helped to interview Christensen, who eventually admitted picking up a woman on campus but still claimed he had dropped her off. Christensen was later recorded telling his then-girlfriend that he had killed Zhang.

Investigators have been unable to find Zhang’s body.