Authorities believe missing Chinese scholar may be dead

Brendt Christensen has been charged with kidnapping Yingying Zhang, a 26-year-old visiting scholar at the University of Illinois.
1:52 | 07/04/17

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Transcript for Authorities believe missing Chinese scholar may be dead
Next, the first court appearance in the suspect of the disappearance of a graduate student in Illinois. Surveillance video showed this student getting into his car. We have the disturbing clues allegedly found on his phone. Reporter: Outside this courthouse today, hundreds demanding justice for university of Illinois graduate student yingying Zhang and her grieving family. Inside the man accused in her kidnapping appearing before a judge. He's been charged with kidnapping, and if convicted the penalty is up to life in prison. Reporter: Brent Christensen, a former physics graduate student, arrested three weeks after the 26-year-old visiting Chinese scholar, vanished. Everybody is stunned, I've gotten many, many e-mails from graduate students and faculty expressing complete disbelief and surprise. Reporter: Christensen was even spotted here in the crowd at this vigil for Zang last week. Prosecutors say Zang was last seen getting into Christensen's car at a bus stop -- taking a ride from a stranger likely because she was running late for an appointment. According to a criminal complaint, Christensen told investigators he gave Zang a ride, but she became panicked. He made "Made a wrong turn," then claims he let her out a few blocks away. Very saddened that it could happen to a new member coming to campus. Reporter: On his phone, investigators say they found visits to forums on a fetish website, including one called, abduction 101, and planning a kidnapping. The founder says the website is for consenting adults and they will terminate anyone who tries harming another user. They say they have the suspect on tape talking about how he took her to his apartment and held her against her will. They have reason to believe she is no longer alive. Tom? Disturbing allegations. Alex, thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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