The family of missing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang has increased the amount of reward money for information about her location.
By the time they arrested a suspect for the 27-year-old Zhang’s kidnapping, authorities had come to believe that she was dead. But the family and boyfriend of the visiting scholar at the University of Illinois have not given up hope that she is still alive.
At a news conference held Thursday at the Illinois Fire Service Institute on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign, Xiaolin Hou spoke of his girlfriend in the present tense.
“Yingying is our pride and joy,” said Hou, reading a statement that Yingying’s father, Ronggai Zhang, subsequently read in Chinese. “She is smart, hardworking, brave and kind. Her dream is to complete her education and return to China and become a university professor, support her family and share her knowledge with students for years to come. We know Yingying wants to be with us and we will not leave the United States without her.”
The Zhang family has raised its maximum reward offer from $40,000 to $50,000 for anonymous tips submitted to Champaign County Crime Stoppers that lead to Yingying’s return.
The reward money was raised on the Zhang family’s behalf through a crowdfunding website. Crime Stoppers Board President John Hecker said when the family first offered the reward in June, they were also seeking information that led to the arrest of a suspect in connection with Yingying’s disappearance on June 9th.
“They (the Zhang family) wanted to underscore the importance of securing the information regarding the resolution of this case,” said Hecker. “Now, fast forward, two and half weeks later, since our last press conference, an arrest has been made, but the case is not over. And our thrust now is very much towards finding Yingying.”
Hecker said that by design, he has not been informed about details of any information about the Yingying Jhang case that had been received following the initial reward offer. But he said that according to Champaign Police Sgt. Geoff Coon, one of two non-voting law enforcement members of the Champaign County Crime Stoppers board, there had seen a “noteworthy spike” in incoming tips, following the first reward announcement made on June 19th.
28-year-old Brendt Allen Christensen was arrested June 30 and is being held with bond. A federal grand jury this week handed down a federal kidnapping charge against the University of Illinois graduate, who is scheduled to be arraigned on July 20.