Wannabe Serial Killer on Trial for Murder of Visiting Scholar

simon-migaj-423321-unsplash-copy-300x200Brendt Christiansen told police that he murdered 13 people. Police do not believe him. Police believe that Christiansen did, however, murder Yingying Zhang, a visiting scholar, and that this could have led to other murders had they not caught him. Police were able to turn Christiansen’s girlfriend against him and got her to wear a wire. He described how he murdered Zhang and then went on to tell her that he murdered 12 other people. His girlfriend, Terra Bullis, asked Christiansen if he thought he might be the next successful serial killer and Christiansen told her that he already was and that Zhang was “number 13.”

Police say that Christiansen lured Zhang away from a bus stop and then forced her into his apartment where he raped, beat, and stabbed her. 

Christiansen has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Yingying Zhang. 

The Case Against Christiansen

Christiansen was investigated by federal authorities and is being tried in federal court. Not only does the federal prosecutor have his girlfriend’s witness testimony, but they also have evidence from the wiretaps. In addition, Christiansen has provided them with a full browser history of elementary inquiries into murder and the disposal of bodies—a veritable Serial Killer 101 of internet searches and articles. 

Expert witnesses focused on Christiansen’s adoration of books like American Psycho and those by Ted Bundy. They also described how major stressors can act as a trigger for serial killers. Christiansen’s marriage was falling apart, according to police. Where once he was a straight-A student en route to his PhD, his grades had fallen off and he was failing all his classes. He had to drop out of the PhD program. 

The case against Christiansen is solid. The defense will likely claim something along the lines of the major stressors in Christiansen’s life leading to a break with reality in which he fantasized about being a serial killer. If there are inconsistencies between the story he gave his girlfriend and the forensic record, they will use this to show that it was all a delusional boast.

The argument will not resonate with jurors, however. Jurors, when they have a confession, even one that is coerced under police interrogation, will use it to convict a defendant. This confession was not coerced and, if it was a boast, it was not a very good one.

Additionally, police claim that they have Christiansen on video pulling up to Zhang outside the bus stop.

The best that even a top lawyer could achieve in a case like this is a verdict of second-degree murder, but even that seems a stretch. In that case, you would end up having to plead for a life sentence as opposed to the death penalty.

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If you have been accused of a federal crime in Chicago, you need an attorney who can defend you against both state authorities and federal ones. David Freidberg, Attorney at Law can help. Call us at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment.

(image courtesy of Simon Migaj)