The 56-year-old Zhang Ronggao "autoplays" the details of his daughter Zhang Yingying's murder every day. When talking about this, he did not change his expression and tone of voice. A "Yellow Crane Tower" was sandwiched between his fingers: his daughter was stunned and raped. The murderer stabbed her with a lot of knives and pinched her neck for nearly 10 minutes. The baseball bat kept hitting her head, and then beheaded and divided.
Today, he passes his daughter's school for junior high school and high school every day on the way to and from get off work, but he "has no feeling in his heart, and can only think of his daughter's pain in his mind." He will never take the initiative to think of other fragments of his daughter's life.
Zhang Yingying disappeared while visiting the United States. In three years, their family went to the United States twice, once to find a daughter, and once to participate in the court trial. Their wishes also ranged from "finding a living daughter" to "finding a dead body to take home."
Ye Lifeng's wife will put the meal on the table before 12 noon, she can clearly distinguish the braking sound of her husband's electric bicycle outside the door. At the dinner table, Zhang Yingying was a topic that the whole family avoided.
Zhang Ronggao of Nanping City, Fujian Province put the raincoat on the electric bicycle, a pair of rearview mirrors were drilled out, he put on a helmet and walked in the rain. Ye Lifeng remembered that it was the same weather when they set off to find a daughter in the United States.
In June 2019, the Zhang Yingying case was formally opened in the Federal District Court of Central Illinois. During the trial, the details of Zhang Yingying's murder were continuously disclosed. Zhang Ronggao listened from beginning to end. He lowered his head and shed tears silently. "I didn't leave because I wanted to know how my daughter died."
"I hope that they (Zhang Yingying's father and younger brother) can take off the headphones, but they don't. They have absorbed every word." said a person who experienced the case trial.
Sitting five or six meters away from the murderer Christensen, Zhang Ronggao saw that Christensen had no expression and would laugh when speaking to the defense lawyer, and he seemed to have no regrets. They have no dialogue and no eye contact.
The trial lasted nearly 1 month. In the end, the murderer Christensen was sentenced to life imprisonment. Facing dozens of media outside the court, his wife Ye Lifeng's emotions were out of control, and Zhang Ronggao finished reading the speech calmly in front of the microphone.
Most of the time, Zhang Ronggao looks "very quiet, serious and persistent". Few people knew that he had met Christensen’s father outside the courtroom, and only two of them were in the elevator. He "regretted that he had nothing on his hands".
After the verdict came out, he shook hands with the murderer's defense female lawyer. "If my wife and son were not on the scene at the time, I might have killed her." Zhang Ronggao said, if he went to the United States alone at that time, "certainly did not come back and did not want to live."
After returning home, his wife Ye Lifeng woke up at night and often found a vacancy beside her. Zhang Ronggao can only sleep for two to three hours almost every night. He went to walk on the street at night, and it was four or five hours as soon as he walked. When it was dawning, he walked to the unit duty room and squinted for a while.
The hillside of the city park has become a place frequented by the couple, who can climb to the top in 10 minutes. Ye Lifeng's chest was sore when her daughter had an accident. The doctor advised her to "cry or shout". She usually goes to the mountains during the day and shouts, while her husband often wakes up at night when he wakes up at night.
Zhang Ronggao lay in the gazebo at the top of the mountain, thinking of his daughter with closed eyes. He couldn't control the details of the "autoplay" of the murder of his daughter in his mind.
There were almost no people in the second half of the city, and the street lights on the mountain went out. He is not afraid. Sometimes, he can't help screaming.
Zhang Yingying's two suitcases were brought back from the United States by her family, and there were a few clothes that she liked during her lifetime. Ye Lifeng didn't want to bring these back, but she couldn't help her husband. She put the clothes back in her daughter's closet at home.
Zhang Yingying, born in 1990, is 3 years older than her brother. Mother Ye Lifeng has never read a book, does not read, and does housework at home. Previously, she earned some change by doing manual work. Father Zhang Ronggao has few words and no hobbies. He studied in junior high school. He started running trucks in 1985 and sometimes returned home only a few months later. Before his daughter had an accident, he bore his head and worked two jobs. He worked as a janitor in a company from Monday to Friday, and drove the long-distance bus to pull the plate on Saturday and Sunday.
The Zhang family's house was built in the 1990s and has 4 floors. Zhang Yingying lives on the top floor, "because the neighbor's playing mahjong is very noisy." After the daughter's accident, Zhang Ronggao added the key of his daughter's room to the keychain in his belt. He moved to a coffee table. When he couldn't sleep at night, he would go upstairs to drink tea and be in a daze. When he was sleepy, he slept in his daughter's room. Make him "comfortable".
The bookcase also retains Zhang Yingying's teaching aids for high school. The thick stack of certificates obtained at the university has only a red shell. Before she went abroad, she took out the inner pages to make materials; the middle grid was washed with 3 sheets. Photos and two commemorative albums, this is what her friends did to commemorate her after her death, and it is the only place in her family to commemorate her.
Last year, Zhang Rong Gao bought a smartphone for 1,900 yuan and began to learn to go online. He often writes his daughter's name in a search engine and watches some videos. One episode was broadcast by the prosecutor. He saw his daughter singing the English song as the lead singer of the band for the first time in court. He "washed out" the videos and photos about his daughter on his wife's mobile phone, afraid that his wife would be sad.
Ye Lifeng's smartphone was bought by her daughter for her first month's salary. She used it to make video calls or listen to songs with her daughter. In 2016, Zhang Yingying entered the Chinese Academy of Sciences as a guest student after graduating from a master's degree at Peking University. Ye Lifeng remembered that her daughter had a monthly income of more than 4,000 yuan at that time, "more than her father's salary." Ye Lifeng told her daughter to "don't always think about giving money to your family, but spend more on yourself."
The daughter designated 8 am to 9 am Beijing time as the mother and daughter's weekly video time. She called her mother "Sister Ai", and Ye Lifeng sometimes called her "Black Sister". My mother always has the problem of endless worry: Is the room door locked, is it safe to go to the field for experiment, is the money enough?
In order to support his daughter to go abroad, Zhang Ronggao borrowed 50,000 yuan from the bank. But it took a few days for the money to arrive. Zhang Yingying did not get the money before going abroad. She relieved her parents that she could borrow some of her classmates and friends, and then return the loan to them. Zhang Ronggao knew that until his daughter's death, 50,000 yuan had not been touched.
There are 36 photos in Zhang Ronggao's mobile phone, 30 of which are related to his daughter's case. Most of the more than 100 friends in WeChat are Chinese and American journalists and volunteers who have helped them. His daughter registered him for WeChat and added himself to his father's friend list. But because Zhang Ronggao used the old machine before, he had no record of chatting with his daughter.
After Zhang Yingying disappeared, many private and official forces participated. The Chinese Consulate General in Chicago stepped in and the case was formally transferred to the US federal investigation. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the local police in the United States launched a fundraising event and raised $15,000 within 9 hours. In the WeChat search and rescue group of "looking for Yingying" volunteers, more than 700 volunteers directly participated in providing assistance, undertaking subdivisions such as field work, media, public relations, and information collation.
Volunteers divided the city of Champagne into more than 20 blocks and organized a carpet search. Later, they stringed several nearby towns into 8-9 routes and prepared thousands of leaflets. There are also enthusiastic locals involved. Zhang Ronggao remembers two local Americans who came to work every day after get off work. The Zhang family is very grateful to these kind people.
But Zhang Yingying did not find it. A month after the disappearance, the US Federal Prosecutor’s Office announced that Zhang Yingying had died.
Ye Lifeng confessed that when her daughter just had an accident, she didn't hate her husband. "Why is it that I am the only one who reminds my daughter to be safe?" But she never said it. "It's useless to complain, all of us are suffering." Ye Lifeng said, her husband was more sad and blamed than her.
The daughter's room was cleaned by her husband. She was afraid that her husband would be sad, so she collected the photos of her daughter on the cupboard. But soon, Zhang Ronggao will take them out and arrange them.
Once, the couple fell off the stairs together, her husband broke four ribs, and his arm was injured. She hurt her waist herself, had difficulty in squatting, and could not do heavy work.
She rarely goes out now, and when she has to go shopping, she will go out early to avoid the crowd.
Most of the time, Zhang Ronggao was surrounded by pain and anger. He went to work as usual, stared at the monitor on the screen, and drove in the company's fleet. But he "wanted to avenge his daughter".
"Cruel" has almost become his most used word. Relatives rarely move around. He hoped that his wife would solve the "minimum security", but it has not been successful so far.
Zhang Ronggao also tried to be counseled by a psychological counselor, but he usually couldn't hear it without a few words. He was very impressed when a foreign psychologist called, "The other party said that there are many such things, and there are many unfortunate people in the family. Some people have no one to pay attention to. You still have people to pay attention. Do not toss yourself now. Let go."
"How can I let it go? I want to ask him, what would you think if it was your daughter?" Zhang Ronggao didn't ask, and he was silent most of the time.
The daughter was gone, no corpse was found, and no one was responsible or compensated for it. Zhang Ronggao felt that "every result was very disappointing and I was forced to a dead end." Before accepting a live media interview, he specially transcribed a set of statistical data on paper, which is an estimate of the admission and fees of Chinese students from the University of Illinois in the United States, in order to explain that "the school received so much money from Chinese students but refused to compensate." Most of this information was obtained when he communicated with his attorney in the United States.
In the process of searching for his daughter, he was not under attack for money. In 2017, a fund-raising campaign to help family members find Zhang Yingying in the United States was set up online. However, netizens believe that during the fundraising process, the amount of money raised has been raised several times, and the Zhang family has never actively disclosed any details of the use of money. They have been questioned and even attacked.
Zhang Ronggao, who is holding an elderly machine, does not go online. He looks for his daughter every day in "near school, cornfields, all places where people provide clues". He is almost the last person to know the situation. "Some people say that we want to immigrate, and some people say that the money was given to Yingying's brother. I really don't know where these rumors came from?"
In July last year, Zhang Yingying's family gave out $20,000 from the fundraising money to Tyra Briss, "Thank her for her bravery." She is the girlfriend of the murderer Christensen and testified in court as a prosecution witness. In the prosecution's chain of evidence, the 9 undercover recordings provided by Tyra are the most critical evidence.
They donated the remaining US$30,000 and set up the "Yingying Foundation" at the school where Zhang Yingying visited the school to help international students and their families facing accidents.
Now, this is where he is now angry-the school accepted the establishment of this fund, but refused to provide any financial compensation. They had conducted a civil lawsuit against the school on the grounds that the murderer had consulted in the school's psychological counseling room three months before the incident, but the two social workers did not provide adequate counseling. In June this year, the lawsuit was dismissed for the second time.
After returning home, the neighbors of the neighborhood tried to avoid starting Zhang Yingying in front of this family. But someone also asked him, "How much did your daughter pay for her death? I heard tens of millions?" Zhang Ronggao would be angry when he heard that.
"The total donation is probably about 2,400 yuan." Zhang Ronggao said that he had also struggled, "Is it so difficult at home, should I donate the money?"
Ye Lifeng found that when she came back from the United States, her son said less. He worked as an apprentice in a restaurant. "The boss is kind and gives him more than 1,000 yuan a month." Husband can earn 2300 yuan a month as a janitor and driver.
Last October, Ye Lifeng became grandma. The grandson brought them short-term happiness. Ruinuo’s little life was in Zhang Ronggao’s arms, his shoulders arched in excitement toward the door-he wanted Grandpa to take him out for fun. Zhang Ronggao will show a rare smile at this time.
Ye Lifeng helped her daughter-in-law to take the children at home on weekdays, and her life was enriched a lot. "Both boys and girls are the same." She told her son and daughter-in-law. But she was expecting a granddaughter in her heart, "will be treated like Yingying, and her life will be hers."
There are also traces of hard work in this family. A few days ago, Zhang Ronggao bought a bag of paint at RMB 18 and repainted the walls of the restaurant. "Otherwise the room is black and too dark, as if disrespecting others." Zhang Ronggao said, someone will come in the next few days.
They want to sell their current house back to their rural hometown. That way, it can not only pay off the debt owed when building a house, but also stay away from the crowd. The house has been hanging out for more than two years and no one cares. The old house in the countryside has collapsed. It belongs to 7 brothers and sisters. Only 16 square meters belongs to Zhang Ronggao.
When a reporter or volunteer visits alone, the couple will worry about safety and invite them to live at home. Passing the barber shop, Ye Lifeng asked carefully, "Do you want to wash your hair?" She was worried that the house was not well and the other party was not comfortable. Zhang Ronggao ordered two meat dishes from the small restaurant and brought them back. He also put the two washed peaches on the bed of the guest to make a supper. The couple does not allow guests to pay.
Last winter, Zhang Ronggao and his lover participated in the recording of a TV show. They went to the dorm where their daughter once lived in Beijing. Ye Lifeng couldn't help but knock on the door of the dormitory, Zhang Ronggao photographed the number of the dormitory, "I just want to know where my daughter lives." He also wanted to go to Guangzhou and Shenzhen to walk the path his daughter walked again.
In April of this year, Zhang Ronggao wore a mask and ran from Fujian to Shandong. He thanked Lin Yuhui, a "scene detective". When searching for a suspect three years ago, the US police invited Lin Yuhui to draw a portrait of the suspect based on the blurred surveillance screen to help solve the case. Zhang Ronggao said that this matter has been in his heart for a long time. When he came back from the US trial last year, he "taken a while to slow down," and unfortunately caught up with the epidemic again. Lin Yuhui and Jinan Caring Enterprise donated 10,000 yuan each to ease Zhang's financial difficulties.
A neighbor told Ye Lifeng that they wanted to see her, but they didn’t know what to say. They were worried that a certain sentence would cause Ye Lifeng to be sad.
When the case was held in the United States, Ye Lifeng was waiting in a room outside the court, accompanied by volunteers. Until now, she knew nothing about the details of her daughter's murder. She is illiterate and does not browse the news, because she will not pay on mobile, and she still holds her purse when she goes out to buy food.
Unlike her husband, she can remember all the good things her daughter did during her lifetime. "She will think in bed and on the road" She couldn't help but feel "heartache" when she saw a student passing by her schoolbag or a girl of the same age as her daughter. "I will never be happy, and I really don't want to be happy."
Ye Lifeng sometimes feels that her daughter has passed away because everyone told her that Zhang Yingying is gone. She dreamed of her daughter in a dream. On a large lawn in the United States, she and her daughter were digging peanuts. The daughter carried a string to show off to her.
She even believed that her daughter might be back in a few years. "He said that if you throw away the trash bin, you can throw away the trash bin? Yingying's father may still believe, I don't believe it." She stopped crying and stared at the visiting person and asked, "Do you believe Zhang Yingying is gone, do you really believe it?" ?"
On WeChat, her chat records with her daughter are updated daily. She sent a voice message to her daughter from ten seconds to 60 seconds. She sent a video invitation and posted a selfie of herself and her grandson.
Only on WeChat, there will be no more response.
China Youth Daily · China Youth Network reporter Ma Yuping and the photo source: China Youth Daily