Family of missing U of I visiting scholar returns to China today

CHICAGO -- The family of Yingying Zhang, a 26-year-old missing visiting scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will return to China today without their daughter. Yingying's family has been in the Chicagoland area since her disappearance in June. The family is now returning to China due to concerns for her mother's health.

"Yingying's mom is not in great health, and this has been especially stressful on her heart and psyche," Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs at the University of Illinois told The (Champaign) News-Gazette.

The family plans to return when there is a major milestone in Yingying's case, but for now, Kaler said the medical attention her mother needs is too expensive to afford in the United States.

Yingying's body has not yet been found, but she is presumed dead. Brendt Christensen, 28, has been charged with her kidnapping and death.

Describing her parents, Kaler told The News-Gazette, "they are the strongest people I've ever met, quiet and humble and very strongly dedicated to ensuring that Yingying is not left behind, that she would know wherever she is, that she is loved unconditionally and with their whole hearts."