One murder trial ends while another begins

Brendt Christensen has been convicted of the murder of 26-year-old doctoral student Yingying Zhang, whose body has never been found.

Of course Yingying’s Charley Project casefile has the basics. I also recommend this Washington Post article, which links to a partial transcript of the trial. And there’s plenty of other news articles about this available.

There remains the punishment phase: LWOP, or the death penalty? (The state of Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, but because Brendt was tried in federal court he can be executed.) The defense’s primary objective, as they said from the outset of the trial, is to save Brendt from the death penalty. I have a hard time imagining how they’re going to accomplish this.

Given the recorded confession and the blood found at Brendt’s apartment, the defense in this case is waging an uphill battle with a 50mph wind in their faces. But even so, their argument strikes me as pathetically weak: Brendt totally isn’t a vile human being and would-be (or, perhaps, actual) serial killer, not at all! He only kidnapped, raped, murdered and decapitated a complete stranger because he was depressed and flunking out of college and felt like a failure!

To which I say: SO WHAT? Lots of people are depressed. I’ve been depressed since I was in middle school. Lots of people flunk out of college. Most people feel like a failure at some point in their life. That isn’t an excuse to go out and murder some poor woman you don’t even know.

In other news, yesterday John Bayerl’s murder trial began in Wisconsin (which happens to be Brendt Christensen’s home state). John’s wife, DonaMae, disappeared in 1979 and was never seen again. Suspicion hovered over him for decades before he was finally arrested early this year.

I’m a bit surprised they’re going to trial so quickly; in most murder cases (as in Yingying’s) years pass between arrest and trial. But John is 79 and not getting any younger; I suppose he’s hoping they’ll acquit him and he can return to his retirement home in Florida and die on a beach instead of in jail.

John is another absolute turd and I firmly believe he killed his wife. I just hope the prosecution can prove it.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Mahfuza Rahman

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Mahfuza Rahman, a 30-year-old woman of Bangladeshi origin who was living in the Bronx when she disappeared on December 8, 2015. She was a nurse, a devout Muslim, and the mother of a nine-year-old girl.

The circumstances of her case make it pretty clear what happened: she was almost certainly murdered by her husband, Mohammad Chowdhury. The cops are trying to build a murder case against Chowdhury, who decamped for Bangladesh immediately after Mahfuza’s disappearance. He’s still there as far as I know; I wonder if they’ve got an extradition agreement with the US?

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Troy Le

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Troy Le, a 19-year-old student at San Diego Mesa College who disappeared on March 20, 2010 and is presumed dead.

Troy and his girlfriend were at the beach and after she ran into some trouble in the water, he tried to save her but wound up in trouble himself. The girlfriend was rescued, but Troy disappeared and he’s presumed drowned and pulled out to sea by the riptide.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Girly Hossencofft

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Girly Chew Hossencofft, a 36-year-old woman born and raised in Malaysia who moved to the U.S. in the early nineties, after meeting and marrying an American, Daizien Hossencofft.

She disappeared from Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 9, 1999. By this time, she and Daizien were in the process of a divorce, as Girly had tired of his infidelity and domestic abuse.

Daizien pleaded guilty to Girly’s murder in 2002 and was sentenced to life plus 61 years in prison. He testified at the trial of his mistress, Linda Henning, who was also accused of the murder. It was a memorable trial to say the least, as Daizien said under oath that he was “a reptilian shape-shifter and capable of being in several places at one time.” He claimed Henning was innocent, but she was convicted anyway and got 73 years.

Girly’s body has never been found. Daizien implied that it was cannibalized.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Hee Kim

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Hee Chol Kim, a 61-year-old man who disappeared from East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania on February 25, 2013.

He left home that afternoon, apparently to go for a walk, and never returned. He had diabetes, had a history of becoming disoriented and wandering, and didn’t speak good English, so I don’t have a lot of hope for him.

If he’s still alive, which I think is unlikely, he’d be about 67 today.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Rhonda Yocom

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Rhonda Lynn Yocom, a 19-year-old woman of Filipino descent who disappeared from Oroville, California in February 1985.

Rhonda left Oroville on February 7 with a man, Odis Garrett, who said he was going to drive her to Oregon so she wouldn’t have to make a court appearance. It’s possible he took her to Vallejo, California instead. She called her boyfriend on February 11, but no one has seen or heard from her since then.

Both Rhonda’s boyfriend and Garrett she was last seen with were Hells Angels, and Garrett’s doing multiple life sentences right now for crimes unrelated to her disappearance.

Curiously, although Rhonda’s boyfriend isn’t a suspect in her disappearance, another woman he dated, 29-year-old Paget Renee Barr, disappeared from Oroville a year later and was never found, and he was the last person seen with her.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Adam Li

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Adam Li, a 26-year-old man who disappeared from San Francisco, California on September 15, 2016. He’s of Chinese descent; over twenty percent of San Francisco residents are Chinese-American.

Adam Li sounds like what they call a “dependent adult.” He’s got bipolar disorder/depression, has very poor social skills and is apparently very shy. He may still be in the San Francisco area, perhaps among the homeless population.

I hope he’s alive. If he is, he’d be 29 today.