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Police Department - University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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Updates on our search for a missing scholar

The University of Illinois Police Department is searching for Yingying Zhang, a 26-year-old visiting scholar who has been missing since June 9. We know our campus community has questions, and we want to keep you updated on the investigation.

On this page…

Updates

June 27

The FBI has announced that investigators located the black Saturn Astra used in the abduction of Yingying Zhang.

From the news release:

The car was described as a black Saturn Astra four-door hatchback. The University of Illinois Police Department and FBI have received numerous leads regarding the vehicle, and we are announcing we have located the vehicle. We will not need any further information from the public regarding the Black Saturn Astra.

We have developed several additional leads and would like to remind the public that this is still an active investigation. We continue to ask the public for information that could lead to locating Ms. Zhang. The FBI continues to offer a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the location of Yingying Zhang. Anyone with information can contact 1-800-CALLFBI (1-800-225-5324).

Click here to read the full news release.

June 26

Investigators continue their work to analyze security camera footage, electronic information, tips and other information. This is a very meticulous effort which must proceed quickly but thoroughly. The FBI has some of the best experts in the country scrutinizing every detail that may help break the case.

In addition to the English version, the FBI has produced the missing person flyer in Chinese (simplified and traditional). Please continue to download, print and distribute the flyers widely.

June 24

The Zhang family shared with us additional photos of Yingying. Please share them widely.

If you have any information about Yingying’s whereabouts, please call 911 or 800-CALL-FBI. You can also leave anonymous tips with Champaign County Crime Stoppers by calling 217-373-TIPS or by visiting http://373tips.com. Tips leading to an arrest or Yingying’s location are eligible for a reward up to $40,000 through Crime Stoppers or $10,000 through the FBI.

Click here for additional images of Yingying to share.

June 23

Yesterday evening, representatives from the University of Illinois Police Department, FBI, Champaign County Crime Stoppers, Counseling Center, International Student and Scholar Services, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, and other groups held a public forum to discuss community support for the search for Yingying.

FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jon Holloway expressed that the FBI has made this case a top priority nationwide. He said he has access to the full resources of the FBI, and more agents are working this one case than typically work the Springfield division’s entire 84-county region.

U. of I. Police Chief Jeff Christensen said that the department has also enlisted every available technological and human resource to work the case.

Other speakers reminded attendees of available resources including those offered by the Counseling Center and the International Student and Scholar Services office.

Investigators expressed again that, though they wish they could divulge more information about the case, they cannot comment on specific details of the investigation in order to protect its integrity and maintain the best possible chance of finding Yingying.

June 21

From Police Chief Jeff Christensen’s email message to the campus community:

“We realize that this has been a source of anxiety for our entire campus community. Our concern for Yingying grows with each day that passes, and we have personally witnessed the pain this uncertain time has created for her family members, friends and colleagues. While we cannot share specific details on the investigation in order to maintain its integrity and direction, we continue to make progress in our search, and we will not give up until we find her.”

Click here to read the full message.

June 19

The Zhang family announced on Monday that they are working with Champaign County Crime Stoppers to offer a reward of up to $40,000 for information leading to an arrest in the disappearance of Yingying Zhang.

Those who may have information can submit anonymous tips to Champaign County Crime Stoppers by calling 217-373-TIPS (8477), online at http://373tips.com or by using the P3 Tips mobile app available on iOS or Android. Tips must be submitted through Crime Stoppers to be eligible for the reward. The Crime Stoppers reward is separate and not linked to the $10,000 reward offered by the FBI for information leading to the location of Ms. Zhang.

Calls and messages to Crime Stoppers are routed to a third-party call center, which strips all identifying information from the call before forwarding the information to police. Callers are assigned a unique identifying number.

Information from the public continues to be an important part of the investigation, and detectives are following up on hundreds of tips already received.

Investigators from the University of Illinois Police Department, Illinois State Police and FBI continue to work around the clock, taking advantage of various technological resources and following leads.

We again thank community members for supporting Ms. Zhang, her family and friends, and for their continued assistance in the investigation. Please continue to look out for and support each other.

Those interested in further information about campus safety services can visit http://police.illinois.edu/services/campus-safety-tips/.

June 17

The FBI is now offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the location of Ms. Zhang.

Investigators from the University of Illinois Police Department, the Illinois State Police and the FBI continue to move forward with the investigation, but information from the public remains an important part of the case.

Anyone with information concerning the disappearance or the whereabouts of Ms. Zhang can contact the FBI at 1-800-CALLFBI (1-800-225-5324) or tips.fbi.gov. Additionally, those wishing to submit information can do so completely anonymously by contacting Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 217-373-TIPS (217-373-8477), 373tips.com or via the P3 Tips mobile app.

Law enforcement and university officials on Saturday also met with Ms. Zhang’s family, who arrived in Champaign-Urbana. Accommodations have been made for them to stay on campus while the search continues.

The U of I Community Credit Union has set up an account and a GoFundMe campaign to cover the family’s living expenses during their time on campus. Those wishing to donate may do so through the website or by visiting any of the U of I Community Credit Union’s three branches.

The University of Illinois Police Department again thanks the community for its continued support of Ms. Zhang, her family and friends, and those who have volunteered to find Ms. Zhang.

June 15

This evening, representatives from the University of Illinois Police Department, Office of the Dean of Students, International Student and Scholar Services and others met with students and visiting scholars to provide more insight and share information about ongoing investigation, as well as introduce some resources that may find useful. This FAQ sheet also was distributed, and it addresses common questions which community members have had on social media and elsewhere.

Police officials are urging that community members not misinterpret a lack of updates as a sign that no progress is being made. Dozens of police officers are working on the case, and the entire University of Illinois Police Department — as well as the Illinois State Police and FBI investigators working the case — are singularly focused on finding Ms. Zhang.

Although the investigation is moving forward very quickly, we are unable to comment on many specifics of the case both to protect the integrity of the investigation and make sure we can find Ms. Zhang as quickly as possible.

Detectives have used vehicle records to identify a number of registered owners of the type of vehicle in the video, and they continue to speak to those owners. Investigators continue to utlize image enhancing technology available through the FBI. Information about the search is being shared widely, reaching more than 1 million people on social media, on billboards throughout the state, and through media both locally and throughout the country. These are just a few of the things we are doing at this time.

We have received lots of questions about what volunteers can do to help. We encourage you to continue to share accurate information on social media and elsewhere, and consider printing and distributing this bulletin to local businesses and other highly-visible areas.

If you have any information, please call 911 or the University of Illinois Police Department at 217-333-1216. Non-emergency information may be emailed to police@illinois.edu. You can also share information anonymously by contacting Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 373tips.com, calling 217-373-TIPS (8477) or by downloading the P3 Tips mobile app (for iOS or Android).

June 14

We continue to ask for help from the public in spreading the word about our search for Ms. Zhang. We have made this public bulletin available for distribution or posting wherever you deem appropriate. The FBI has also published a poster available for download.

Our investigation continues to progress with assistance from the FBI and the Illinois State Police. This is a very complex search, and investigators are working hard to follow-up on a large amount of information. We will continue to post updates as there are developments.

June 13

We have received many pieces of information and our detectives continue to work around the clock to develop new information. We continue to work with rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, cellphone companies, check vehicle records and we have pursued other information offered to us by members of the public. We are very thankful for this information and continue to encourage anyone who may know something about the black Saturn Astra or anyone who may have information about her whereabouts to contact us by phone at 217-333-1216 or email, police@illinois.edu.

We are deeply troubled anytime we believe a member of our campus community may be in danger, but we are very grateful for our community’s support for Ms. Zhang. We are doing everything we can to search for her, including the use of resources offered by our partner law enforcement agencies and the FBI. Please continue to look out for each other, support each other, and keep Ms. Zhang as well as her family and friends in your thoughts.

June 12

For additional information, please read Chief Christensen’s June 12 message to the campus community.

June 11

For information about the search, please read Police Chief Jeff Christensen’s June 11 message to the campus community.

June 10

Our initial message seeking information about Ms. Zhang was posted on Facebook at 2:32 p.m.

Frequently asked questions

What are police doing to find Ms. Zhang?

We are enlisting every available resource to help find Ms. Zhang. Investigators have spoken with people who know her, and we are searching security camera footage, local hospitals, working with rideshare programs like Uber and Lyft, and checking other records. Investigators have also looked into reports of a black vehicle whose driver invited other young women into the car. Although we cannot release many specific details of our investigation, we are exploring a number of routes which we hope may help us find Ms. Zhang. We have also released a number of still photos and videos to the public with hope that someone may have information as to Ms. Zhang’s whereabouts. If you have any information, please call 911 or the University of Illinois Police Department at 217-333-1216. Non-emergency information may be emailed to police@illinois.edu. You can also share information anonymously by contacting Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 373tips.com, calling 217-373-TIPS (8477) or by downloading the P3 Tips mobile app (for iOS or Android).

Is Ms. Zhang in danger?

We are deeply concerned anytime someone cannot be contacted for an extended period of time. While we are exploring a number of possible scenarios which may have contributed to this incident, we are treating this as a very urgent matter.

The FBI poster says “kidnapping.” Have police confirmed it was a kidnapping?

While we categorize this as a missing person case, the FBI may use different terminology to categorize its investigations, and kidnapping is one possibility of many that we are pursuing. At this point in the investigation, there is no way to confirm exactly what happened, and we are not ruling anything out.

There have been reports of a black sedan whose driver poses as an undercover police officer to lure people into the car. Is that connected?

Detectives were alerted to that report via social media after the investigation began. We have spoken to at least one person who reported that, and we gathered valuable information about that encounter. At this point, we do not have information to say definitively that it is connected, but we also cannot rule it out. It is among the scenarios which we are investigating.

Have police identified the license plate yet?

We have used vehicle records to identify a list of people who drive that make and model vehicle, and we’re speaking to people who drive that kind of vehicle.

What can I do to help?

We are asking the public to be observant, to take a look at the images and videos we have released (below), and to contact us if you have any information. Even small pieces of information can be tremendously helpful. Stay up to date on the investigation, and help us disseminate accurate information. The more people to whom we can deliver verified, accurate information, the more likely we are to find Yingying. We are very appreciative of the help many of you have already provided.

Does this incident present a danger to the general public?

Even under normal circumstances, we always ask members of our community to be observant, to be aware of their surroundings and to call police if they notice anything suspicious. That remains the case here. Should you ever feel uncomfortable or concerned for your safety, please call 911 immediately.


Images and video

The University of Illinois Police Department has released the following still images and video, which we hope may help community members contribute to the investigation. If you have any information regarding these photos, vehicle information or anything else, please call 911 or contact the University of Illinois Police Department at 217-333-1216. Non-emergency information may also be emailed to police@illinois.edu.

Yingying Zhang
Yingying Zhang.

In this security video from the B-4 parking garage on North Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, just after 2 p.m. Friday, Ms. Zhang is seen standing on the east side of Goodwin Avenue as a black Saturn Astra (unknown year) pulls up beside her. She and the driver speak for some time before she enters the vehicle, which then continues north on Goodwin Avenue. The very last clip of the video is a closer view of the vehicle, just before picking up Ms. Zhang.

Yingying Zhang boarded an MTD Teal line bus at the south shelter at Orchard Downs at 1:35 p.m. on Friday, June 9. She exited the bus at Springfield and Mathews avenues in Urbana at 1:52 p.m. Friday. At the time, she was wearing a charcoal gray hat with a white logo on the front. She has shoulder length brown hair, glasses, and a white/pink flannel print long sleeve shirt, white undershirt, jeans, white shoes, and a navy backpack.

Ms. Zhang outside the Teal line bus.
Ms. Zhang outside the Teal line bus.


Ms. Zhang inside the Teal line bus.
Ms. Zhang inside the Teal line bus.


Ms. Zhang was wearing this shirt on Friday, June 9.
Ms. Zhang was wearing this shirt on Friday, June 9.


Ms. Zhang was carrying this backpack on Friday, June 9.
Ms. Zhang was carrying this backpack on Friday, June 9.

Additional images of Yingying

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