Yukai Yang a former Lehigh University chemistry major indicted after secretly poisoning his roommate with thallium over the course of several months.
A former chemistry major at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania has been arrested after allegedly poisoning his roommate over the course of several months after secretly mixing the toxic metal thallium and other chemicals into his victim’s food, drinks and mouthwash.
Yukai Yang, a 22-year-old international student from China, was arraigned Thursday on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment in connection with the alleged plot to kill his former roommate, Juwan Royal, who continues to suffer symptoms from the incidents that began in February, prosecutors said.
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli told reporters at a news conference Thursday that Yang and Royal had been roommates for several years and that the poisoning took place over the span of several months – following an apparent grudge.
Yang was already facing charges of ethnic intimidation for allegedly using a black marker to write ‘[N-word] get out of here’ in their dorm room in April. But prosecutors said Royal, who is black, was unaware of the acrimony between the two seniors.
‘Initially, Mr. Royal was dumbfounded by this as everyone else, because he believed they had a fairly cordial relationship as roommates,’ Assistant District Attorney Abe Kassis said according to LehighValleyLive.com.
Yukai Yang admits to buying chemicals on the internet, including thallium:
Police first responded to the pair’s room in February when Royal reported drinking from a water bottle there and then feeling a burning sensation in his mouth. That prompted Royal to wake up Yang, who then explained what happened, seemingly using his background in chemistry to explain the situation to his roommate.
‘So the substance that they are putting in your drink is colorless, odorless and dissolves in water,’ Yang reportedly told Royal.
Morganelli said Royal’s tongue was sore for several days and that he became sickened again the following month. Yang told officers March 18 that he thought someone was tampering with the milk in their fridge and Royal’s mouthwash, as both items had changed color.
Royal was sickened again March 29 and went to a hospital after vomiting and being unable to stop shaking, Morganelli said.
Officers returned to the dorm room one week later in response to the graffiti, as well as damage to Royal’s television and bed. Police at that point seized Yang’s computer and cellphone, while Royal told officers about the incident from February and submitted to a blood test.
Investigators then found that Royal’s blood tested positive for thallium — an odorless, tasteless, toxic soft metal that can be fatal in humans — at 3.6 micrograms per liter, or above the recommended exposure limit.
Police also found traces of cadmium, another toxic soft metal, inside the pair’s dorm room, but prosecutors said the chemical wasn’t found in Royal’s blood.
Yang later admitted buying chemicals on the internet, including thallium, but said he did so in order to harm himself if he didn’t perform as well as he wanted on future exams at Lehigh.
Yang allegedly admitted mixing the chemicals with food and drinks inside the dorm room’s shared fridge.
Yukai Yang a repeat Deans List student whose student visa has been revoked.
A motive in the alleged poisoning is unclear, the Morning Call reports. Yang was suspended from the university in April following his arrest over the graffiti incident. Prosecutors say Yang intends to plead guilty in that case. The international student’s visa was eventually revoked.
Yang who was studying chemistry at Lehigh had been set to graduate in 2018, according to a profile on Merit Pages. He was a dean’s list student during the 2015, 2016 and 2017 academic year, according to the Merit Pages profile.
Royal, meanwhile, graduated in May 2018 with a degree in African American/black studies and is also a musician aspiring to start a rap career, according to his social media profiles
‘The victim is still experiencing physical symptoms from the poisoning that occurred, so this is something has had some lasting impact,’ Morganelli told reporters.
Yang remains jailed in a special housing unit at Northampton County Prison on $200K bail and faces possible life behind bars if found guilty of attempted murder.