Possible sightings of Yingying Zhang create doubt about FBI judgment
Photos: image.baidu.com

Recent developments seem to have shed a new light on Yingying Zhang, a Chinese scholar kidnapped in the US and presumed dead. It was reported by a local TV media in St. Louis, Missouri that many people had reported seeing Yingying in Salem, Illinois, a small town 1.5 hours east of St. Louis. Zhidong Wang, Zhang family’s attorney, told Sino-US.com the family had gone to Salem to find Yingying and now they’re hopeful that there may be a miracle.

Yingying Zhang was reported missing from the University of Illinois this June, and Brendt Christensen, a former Illinois teaching assistant, was later arrested as suspect. According to Zhidong Wang, the Zhang family was informed of the arrest on June 30. “Meanwhile, they were told that based on the FBI judgments, Zhang is dead,” he said. On the second court hearing of the case on July 5, Christensen was denied bail.

Zhidong Wang told Sino-US.com that in the morning of July 6, the family had left for Salem to follow through the tips coming from the Facebook. “They have been there the whole day, searching for Yingying on the local streets and inquiring businesses one by one,” Wang said, adding that seven people confirmed that they had seen Yingying Zhang and five of them are quite sure about the sightings.

“Each of them could tell the exact date, time and location of their separate sighting. Some provided even details, like she had the same shoulder bag as she was last seen to be carrying around UIUC and she was peddling jewelry to local businesses when they saw her,” Wang noted.

One witness claimed that she could clearly identify Zhang’s features and the conversations between them indicated she was the missing girl. “She recalled that Zhang spoke English, said she is from China and is a UIUC student. She even remembered her introducing herself as Yingying,” Wang told Sino-US.com. 
Zhang’s family had asked to meet with the FBI and local police the next morning when they came back and they called for further investigation into the matter. However, the FBI replied that they had learned about the situation although they suspect the motives of the information providers. Although the FBI agreed that they would investigate into the reports of sightings, they said they’re concerned this may distract them from studying more valuable information about the case.

According to the FBI, it makes no sense for Yingying Zhang not to connect with her family but peddle jewelry somewhere two hours’ drive away after being reported missing one week later.

Wang said Zhang’s family is not satisfied with the response. In their perspective, it also makes no sense for the FBI to pronounce Yingying as dead but fail to provide any concrete proof to support the judgment. Xiaolin Hou, Zhang’s boyfriend, a doctorate student at Peking University, according to Wang, also believes the witnesses are telling the truth.

Zhidong Wang thinks it is still early to tell if the Salem reports would affect Zhang’s kidnapping case in any way. He then said that all people are now expecting an outcome which is for Yingying to be back to her family soon.

Meanwhile, Sino-US.com found many English-speaking netizens expressing their mixed opinions about the recent news, with an overwhelming number of them suspecting authenticity of Salem witnesses’ stories.

“A woman (Ms Douglas) posted all over the Facebook groups that she and ‘many others’ saw Yingying Zhang ‘walking around all over the town’ and ‘peddling jewelry’”. The netizen then commented “it just doesn’t make any sense at all why there isn’t a single camera that caught a glimpse of Yingying if she was all over the town while selling jewelry door-to-door?

Some doubted that the FBI has not released all the information they have. “Truly, the FBI has not released any information about why specifically they’re certain she’s dead. Given that they’ve obviously kept information suppressed so far, it’s quite possible they have obvious information that if we all heard it, we’d all conclude that she’s dead, too.”

Now, a $50,000 reward is being offered for anyone who has information on Zhang’s whereabouts. 


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