Missing University of Illinois Visiting Scholar Was Kidnapped: 'We Are Deeply Troubled'
Yingying Zhang has not been seen or heard from since she was caught on CCTV footage getting into a black Saturn Astra hatchback on June 9
Authorities believe a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois who has not been seen in nearly two weeks may have been kidnapped, PEOPLE confirms.
Twenty-six-year-old Yingying Zhang, a scholar from China in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, has not been seen or heard from since she was caught on CCTV footage getting into a black Saturn Astra hatchback at about 2 p.m. on June 9, according to a University of Illinois Police Department bulletin.
In the video, which police have released, Zhang is seen standing on the street corner before being approached by the black car. Authorities have used vehicle records to identify and interview registered drivers of the car. They have also reached out to rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft in addition to checking cell phone records, the bulletin says.
According to the bulletin, investigators have also looked into reports of a black vehicle whose driver invited other young women into the car.
Before being approached by the vehicle, Zhang had taken a bus to where she was last seen, police say.
“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.”
Zhang is one month into a yearlong program at the university studying photosynthesis and crop productivity, a university spokesperson tells PEOPLE.
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On Saturday, Zhang’s father, aunt and boyfriend arrived at the school from China.
“I have faith that my niece will eventually come back. This is all we can do, to keep believing.” Ye Liqin, Zhang’s aunt, told the South China Morning Post.
Zhang’s father spent Father’s Day searching for his daughter, the Post reports, and told Beijing Youth Daily he would never let his daughter return to the U.S. if and when she’s found.
On Monday, Zhang’s family announced they are working with local Crime Stoppers to offer a reward of $40,000 for any information leading to an arrest, the police bulletin states. The FBI has also offered a separate award of $10, 000.
Zhang is described as an Asian woman, 5 feet 4 inches tall, 110 lbs., with shoulder length black hair and brown eyes. At the time of her disappearance she was wearing glasses, a white and pink flannel print long sleeve shirt with jeans, white shoes, and a navy backpack.