By Associated Press - Friday, March 27, 2020

URBANA, Ill. (AP) - The University of Illinois is seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the estate of a slain visiting Chinese scholar against two social workers at a campus counseling center.

A judge dismissed a federal lawsuit against the social workers in December, but the estate of Yingying Zhang refiled it in state court in January.

Zhang’s family has argued that social workers Thomas Miebach and Jennifer Maupin should have done more when Brendt Christensen, who was later convicted of kidnapping the scholar, told them months before her disappearance of his fascination with serial killers and that he had purchased items to move and dispose of a body, The News-Gazette reported.

Zhang’s body has never been found.

U.S. Judge Colin S. Bruce ruled in December that Zhang’s death “was simply too remote a consequence of Defendants’ alleged actions to hold them responsible under the federal civil rights law.”

Lawyers for the social workers made a similar argument this month in their motion to dismiss the state case.

“The Social Workers are not and cannot be held legally responsible for the random and incomprehensible actions of a lone individual committed more than two months after the Social Workers saw him a single time each,” Chicago attorney Gregory E. Ostfeld wrote in the motion.

Christensen was found guilty of abducting Zhang from a bus stop in June 2017, then raping, choking and stabbing her before beating her to death with a bat and decapitating her. He is serving a life sentence.

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