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The Latest: Jury deliberates in Chinese scholar death case

FILE - This photo provided by the Macon County Sheriff's Office in Decatur, Ill., shows Brendt Christensen. The former University of Illinois doctoral...

FILE - This photo provided by the Macon County Sheriff's Office in Decatur, Ill., shows Brendt Christensen. The former University of Illinois doctoral...

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — The Latest on the trial in the slaying of a visiting Chinese scholar (all times local):

12:30 p.m.

Jurors are deliberating in the trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student charged with kidnapping and killing a 26-year-old visiting scholar from China.

The jury started considering the case against Brendt Christensen just before noon Monday after closing arguments in Peoria federal court. Defense attorneys began the trial by admitting Christensen killed Yingying Zhang in 2017. It's part of a strategy to try to persuade jurors to spare the 29-year-old Christensen's life.

The judge said he would give 30 minutes notice when the jury has reached a verdict. The case is being closely followed in China and by Chinese students in the U.S.

If jurors convict Christensen they must then decide whether he should be sentenced to die. The penalty phase could last weeks.

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12 a.m.

Closing arguments are set for the federal death penalty trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student charged with kidnapping and killing a 26-year-old visiting scholar from China.

Monday's closings follow a week and a half of testimony. If jurors convict Brendt Christensen, they must then decide whether he should be sentenced to die for beating Yingying Zhang to death with a baseball bat in 2017. The penalty phase could last weeks.

Defense attorneys began the trial by admitting Christensen killed Zhang. It's part of a strategy to try to persuade jurors to spare Christensen's life.

The case is being closely followed in China and by Chinese students in the U.S.

Champaign-based University of Illinois has more than 5,000 Chinese students, among the largest enrollments in the nation.