A former Lehigh University student, who has been accused of vandalizing his black roommate’s desk with the N-word, allegedly tried to kill him with a substance once used as rat poison.
According to Lehigh Valley Live, Yukai Yang, 22, a former chemistry major at Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa., was arraigned Thursday for attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment. Police say Yang attempted to poison roommate Juwan Royal with thallium, a toxic metal that, if ingested, can damage the nervous system and become fatal. Thallium, which is tasteless and odorless, was once used as rat poison in the U.S. until it was banned due to fears of human ingestion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The case, which District Attorney John Morganelli called “weird and bizarre” in a Thursday press conference, began in March.
According to a statement from Morganelli provided to Yahoo Lifestyle by the Lehigh Police Department, on March 18, officers visited the men’s dorm room because Royal had passed out at his computer. Yang told police he suspected that someone was tampering with items in their room because milk in their shared refrigerator and Royal’s mouthwash had mysteriously changed color. On March 29, police returned to the room where Royal reported throwing up for the past 45 minutes; he was then transported in an ambulance to the hospital.
In early April, police made a third trip to Yang and Royal’s room, because Yang had allegedly found damage to Royal’s television and bed. Also, his desk was vandalized with the phrase “[N-word] get out of here.”
Royal told police he suspected Yang of writing the graffiti, noting that his roommate always stumbled onto the “strange incidents” in their room. After an investigation, Yang was charged with ethnic intimidation, institutional vandalism and criminal mischief.
The victim also told police that in February, he drank from a water bottle and his tongue started burning. When Royal told Yang about it, the roommate allegedly said, “So the substance they are putting in your drink is odorless, colorless and dissolves in water.”
After Royal’s blood tested positive for thallium at dangerous levels, Yang told police that he bought thallium online with the intent to harm himself if he failed his exams and that he placed the substance in communal items in the men’s fridge.
“We intend to defend these charges,” Yang’s attorney Janet Jackson told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Yukai has denied that he intentionally tried to harm his roommate — his best friend of four years — and said that he tried to harm himself. It was Yukai’s milk.”
In a Thursday news conference, Morganelli said that Royal graduated from Lehigh in the spring and is still suffering physical symptoms of thallium poisoning. The investigation will continue to make sure there are no other victims.
“Mr. Royal was as dumbfounded by this as anyone else,” Assistant District Attorney Abraham Kassis said in the press conference. “He believed they had a fairly cordial relationship as roommates.”
Yang is from China and had his visa revoked. He’s now incarcerated.
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