Yingying Zhang Family Emergency

$161,445 of $500,000 goal

Raised by 3,551 people in 26 months
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This fund was created to assist the family of missing U of I scholar Yingying Zhang with expenses incurred as the search for her continues. The case against the suspect who admitted to kidnapping her continues to move through the legal system, and her family needs support and kindness more than ever.

It was Yingying’s will to complete her education and return to China to become a university professor, support her family. At this time, we are asking your support to fulfill YingYing’s wish to help her family.

Thank you for helping ensure that Yingying’s dream comes true. 


And please the story link to: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2017-07-21/china-asks-searchers-step-ahead-protracted-trial-accused-kidnapper.html

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GoFundMe's Community Management Team has requested the following in order to update how the donated funds are being handled:

1. The funds raised through this campaign are being spent as described in the previous updates to this page, i.e., to support the ongoing search for Yingying and to cover the family’s costs while they attended the trial and while they continue the search for Yingying. Now that the trial is complete, rewards of $20,000 are being made to those who provided information that led to the arrest and conviction of the person who kidnapped Yingying. The family’s final U.S. expenses are being paid, a fund of $30,000 is being set-up through the University of Illinois Foundation to assist other international students and their families who experience crises, and funds are being directed to the family for their support as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

2. Roaa Al-Heeti is the Zhang family attorney. She withdraws funds in the name of the Zhang family and deposits those funds in the trust account of her law firm, Maatuka Al-Heeti Emkes LLC for distribution to the family of Yingying Zhang. The family members of Yingying do not have a social security number, so they are collecting the funds through the assistance of their attorneys.

3. The family of Yingying Zhang is thankful for the assistance they have received from the local Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, community, their supporters in China, and their supporters all over the world. The supports from all over the world helped and encouraged them to live through the two years of waiting for the truth and the trial. They have demonstrated courage and grace throughout this horrible ordeal. They have limited their expenses and only spent what they needed of the funds raised through this page.

The senseless crime that took their dear Yingying has been beyond difficult for them to face, and it is a situation far worse than they could have ever imagined. They have searched for their daughter in a foreign land, and then waited for two years for the case to move through the U.S. legal system. Their lives are forever changed. The gruesome details of Yingying’s murder are appalling, and the search for her remains continues. They have limited their expenses and only spent what they needed of the funds raised through this page. They have demonstrated courage and grace throughout this horrible ordeal, and must now return home without even their daughter’s remains.
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(Part 1)

Help raise funds to support
the search for Yingying!

Our dear friend Yingying Zhang went missing on June 9, 2017. She had recently moved to Champaign-Urbana, IL as a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois. She was on her way to meet a potential landlord that day. Surveillance footage shows her entering a vehicle. She was never seen again.

Yingying’s mother, father, brother, aunt and boyfriend are in the U.S., working with the FBI and local police to bring Yingying home. The family has pledged to stay until they can bring Yingying home.

The search for Yingying is ongoing. The FBI considers this case to be a high priority. They have found who they believe is Yingying’s abductor, and he is being tried in a federal court. The local police are also working on finding Yingying. The University of Illinois police department posts updates on their search online, at http://police.illinois.edu/search-updates/.

Yingying’s family appreciates all of the support provided by the Champaign-Urbana community and around the world, including many people in China. Without your support, Yingying’s family could not continue its search for her.

The search for Yingying is complicated and, unfortunately, takes time. The FBI considers finding Yingying a high priority, and yet, despite two months of searching, there have not been any significant break-through in finding Yingying.

The funds being raised are supporting the family during their search for Yingying in the following ways:

1. Funding search for Yingying.

This is the highest priority for the funds.
The search for Yingying has not stopped. We wish the search was still on the front page of every newspaper and still being covered by the nightly news every single night. Even though people don't hear about the search, the search is still ongoing. With your help, the family and its supporters will continue to search for Yingying.

The family has pledged $50,000 for tips related to the search for Yingying and the arrest and prosecution of anyone who hurt Yingying, including assisting with the case against her alleged kidnapper. The award and the tips are being handled through Champaign County Crime Stoppers. Your support of this GoFundMe page made this reward possible. More information on the reward can be found at: www.champaigncountycrimestoppers.com.

The family has followed any leads that it receives about Yingying’s location. Their trip to Salem, IL, to look for Yingying after she was spotted there got some media attention. The family goes to local parks, the campus town area, and lakes throughout Illinois to look for Yingying.

More press conferences and media-friendly events will be necessary to keep the search for Yingying on the minds of everyone. The family cooperates with all media outlets interested in covering the search for Yingying, and they have, in fact, given many interviews. The family tries to keep this story in the news so that the search continues.

The search for Yingying gained attention in the press again recently at a press conference organized by the family, the University of Illinois and other supporters. The press conference was held on August 22, 2017. This press coverage is crucial to the search for Yingying. News agencies all over the world covered the press conference and reported on the ongoing search for Yingying. The media coverage was local, national and international, with the local news, Chicago Tribune, CBS news, several news agencies in China and others covering the event. You can listen to the full press conference here: http://www.news-gazette.com/audio/2017-08-22/podcast-yingying-zhang-family-news-conference-8-22-17.html.

Media coverage of the press conference can be viewed here:


The family of Yingying hopes to hire an investigator or private detective, any experts who can provide assistance with her search, and a search team to look for Yingying. However, the family has had to hold off on doing this because the FBI’s search for Yingying is ongoing, and the family respects their work and does not wish to interfere. In addition, when inquiring about the cost of these professionals, the family found that the funds raised are not yet sufficient to cover this cost. This is why the fundraising goal of this page was raised to $500,000. If the FBI terminates its search before finding Yingying, the family hopes to have the funds to continue to look for Yingying until they find her.

2. Legal expenses related to the search for Yingying

This cost came up as part of the family’s search for Yingying. The family has no U.S. ties or experience, and they are in need of advice on how to how to search for Yingying, how the U.S. legal system works, and the set-up of a trust to accept the funds from this page, as the family members have no social security numbers, as required by GoFundMe. they are working with their attorney, the U of I's public relations office, three additional pro bono attorneys, translators, and others as needed, to navigate their search for Yingying and their temporary stay in the U.S. When they can, the family of Yingying gets free legal counsel to save money.

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(Part 2)

3. The family’s expenses in the U.S. during the search for Yingying and the prosecution of her alleged attacker

The cost of staying in the U.S. during the search for Yingying and the prosecution of her alleged attacker is very high, especially when compared to the cost of life in China. Without your support, Yingying’s family would not have the funds to remain in Champaign-Urbana. This is critically important, as they need to be here in order to meet with the FBI, meet with local law enforcement, attend all hearings of her alleged abductor, and physically go out and look for Yingying when they receive a tip. They also wish to remain in the U.S. to remain in contact with the prosecutor in charge of the case against Yingying’s alleged attacker.
The family creates and participates in events that bring attention to the search for Yingying. Your support on this page helps support the cost of these events, the cost of fliers and other costs related to the events and materials needed to search for Yingying.
The family's expenses are their basic living expenses while they search for Yingying, legal expenses, travel expenses, and other support costs.

4. The support of the family as they attempt to transition back into their “normal” life

This family will never be the same again. They lost their daughter, and they would do anything to have her back. At this point, seeing her alive once more is a dream they can only wish will one day come true. Once the search for Yingying is over and the trial of her alleged attacker complete, they will return to China to resume their lives. If there are any funds left from the search of Yingying and its related expenses, then those funds can help the family as they transition back into life in China. This is the lowest priority for the funds, as the primary goal is to find Yingying.

The University of Illinois has given its full support to the search for Yingying and to this GoFundMe campaign. A Yellow Ribbon Campaign started by the University of Illinois on August 22, 2017, allows you to publicly display your support of the search for Yingying. An image of the yellow ribbon is below.

Ribbons are available weekdays between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at these Ribbon Distribution Centers:

*College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences 227 Mumford Hall 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana
*Physics Department, 227 Loomis Laboratory 1110 W. Green St., Urbana UI Public Safety Building 1110 W. Springfield Av, Urbana
*School of Social Work Dean’s Suite 1010 W Nevada St, Urbana

Funds raised to date through the GoFundMe page were directed to Yingying’s family as the beneficiaries of the account to be used to assist in the payment of certain expenses, as explained above. Because Yingying’s family members do not have social security numbers, they could not be formally named the beneficiaries of this page. The funds being raised by this GoFundMe page have therefore been directed to the office of Yingying’s family’s attorneys, namely, Maatuka Al-Heeti, Dorantes Emkes LLC and have been held in the trust account of that firm. These funds have been partially used to pay the family’s living expenses, as well as other expenses associated with the search for Yingying. In addition, the family has directed the creation of a trust, to which a substantial portion of the funds were transferred. The trustees of the trust are individuals located in Champaign-Urbana, IL, who are familiar with the community and who have come to know of Yingying and her family. This trust holds the money that will fund the Crime Stoppers reward offered for information helpful in locating Yingying or in prosecuting anyone who hurt her. These funds can also be used to pay for expenses incurred in the search. They also can be used to assist the family with routine expenses that allow the family to remain in the U.S. during the search for Yingying or that they incur after their eventual return to China. The family and the trustees are exploring the option of naming the trust as beneficiary of this page, instead of the law firm.

The family’s attorney, Roaa Al-Heeti, is one of two campaign managers for this site. The other campaign manager is E.J. Donaghey of the University of Illinois Community Credit Union (UICCU). The UICCU created this GoFundMe page in cooperation with the University of Illinois. The UICCU and the U of I have been a consistent source of support for the family.

Unfortunately, the family has heard a few rumors about their character and their use of these funds as they search for their daughter, who is presumed dead. These rumors are cruel and unfounded, and have further wounded their already shattered spirits. Those cruel enough to hurt this family are asked to please refrain from harming the Zhang family.

We are all very appreciative of the help of GoFundMe and all of the many others who have helped the family search for Yingying. This family is in crisis, but they are always, always appreciative of and humbled by all the help they have received.
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GoFundMe's Community Management Team has requested I do the following in order to update how the donated funds are being handled:

1. Roaa Al-Heeti is the Zhang family attorney.
2. Roaa Al-Heeti will be withdrawing funds in the name of the Zhang family
3. Through Maatuka Al-Heeti Dorantes Emkes LLC Law Firm Trust

E.J. Donaghey, President/CEO
U of I Community Credit Union
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Read a Previous Update

$161,445 of $500,000 goal

Raised by 3,551 people in 26 months
No Longer Accepting Donations
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