The Mother from Hell & the Kidnapping of Yingying Zhang

Jan 22, 10:30 AM
In the summer of 1984, a small fire broke out along a California highway. A driver pulled off the road to get a closer look at the blaze, but that closer look brought more questions than answers. What the hell was that awful smell? Soon, another driver arrived on the scene. He used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. Once the smoke cleared, the two drivers made a disturbing discovery -- a burnt human body. Investigators learned that the body belonged to a woman -- and that she’d sustained multiple injuries over her lifetime. But it would take them years to discover who that woman was, and who had tortured her.

Then Kristin tells us about a bright, talented young woman whose life was cut short by a total dirtbag. Yingying Zhang was beyond smart. Originally from Nanping, China, she attended one of the nation’s top universities. When it came time to earn her doctorate, she headed off to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She had only been in the United States for a few weeks when she suddenly went missing. 

And now for a note about our process. For each episode, Kristin reads a bunch of articles, then spits them back out in her very limited vocabulary. Brandi copies and pastes from the best sources on the web. And sometimes Wikipedia. (No shade, Wikipedia. We love you.) We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the real experts who covered these cases.

In this episode, Kristin pulled from:
“Undercover girlfriend” episode of 20/20
“The Kidnapping and murder of YingyingZhang” entry on wikipedia
“Prosecutor: Suspect in Chinese student’s kidnapping discussed ‘ideal victim’” by Kaylee Hartung, Janet DiGiacomo and Darran Simon for CNN.com
“In opening statement, attorney admits Brendt Christensen abducted, killed Chinese scholar at University of Illinois,” by Jamie Munks for the Chicago Tribune
“Guilty: Brendt Christensen found guilty in Yingying Zhang’s kidnapping, killing,” wandtv.com 

In this episode, Brandi pulled from:
“Mother Knows Best: The Story of Theresa Jimmie Cross” by David Lohr, Crime Library
“‘Unbelievable’ Tale Reveals Grisly Crimes” by Richard C. Paddock, Los Angeles Times
“Theresa Jimmie Knorr” murderpedia.org
“Theresa Knorr” wikipedia.org