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Prosecutors: Chemistry Student Who Poisoned Black Roommate Tried to Use ICE to Flee U.S.


College student poisons roommate

There’s been another set of developments in the extremely weird case of Chinese national Yukai Yang, a chemistry student kicked out of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania for allegedly intimidating a black roommate with racist graffiti and poisoning him with toxic metals. Prosecutors have announced that Yang, 22, tried to escape the U.S. over Christmas by getting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport him back to China.

Yang, who faces charges of ethnic intimidation, attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault, and reckless endangerment, had a “good strategy,” according to District Attorney John Morganelli. As Law&Crime reported before, Yang was being held at Northampton County Jail on $200,000 bail. Yang’s family apparently posted that bail so that he would be taken into ICE’s custody on an immigration detainer and then “waive deportation” to leave the country. Yang’s student visa was revoked due to the charges against him.

“He informed them he was going to waive deportation, which meant he was going to get on a plane and go home,” Morganelli said. “It appears to us it was a good strategy.”

“Luckily we got a heads-up on it and we were aware of it,” he added. “Mr. Yang thought that because he is a foreign national, now here illegally in that his student visa has been revoked, that he could post bail, waive his right to a deportation hearing and abscond. That will not happen.”

Another new detail that was learned is that Yang may be on the hook for a second attempted homicide at Lehigh University. DA Morganelli said new information “came to light” after Yang’s arrest, suggesting that someone else experienced what Yang’s former roommate Juwan Royal did, saw it in the news, and came forward.

Morganelli would only say that an investigation into this is “in the early stages.”

Yang is accused of putting the toxic metal thallium in Royal‘s food, water, and mouthwash over the course of several months, causing a “lasting impact” on Royal’s health. They were roommates were seniors at the university. While Royal graduated, Yang was kicked out and his student visa was revoked.

Yang was in court on Thursday, December 20 to be arraigned on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault, and reckless endangerment. The Express-Times reported that Royal began to experience health issues in February, but was not aware of the cause. Two months later, Yang was charged with ethnic intimidation for vandalizing the dorm room with the racist phrase “N***** get out out of here.” Royal, after drinking from a water bottle in February, started to experience a burning sensation in his mouth. His tongue was sore for “several days,” as a result, he claimed.

According to prosecutors, Yang said, “So the substance that they are putting in your drink is colorless, odorless and dissolves in water.” Royal got sick again in March to such an extent that he had to go to the hospital. Authorities say Royal is still “experiencing physical symptoms” from the poisoning.

When police investigated the racist graffiti incident, Royal told them about his recent unexplained illness and got blood work done. That’s when the thallium was discovered. When authorities questioned Yang about this, he allegedly admitted to buying toxic metals on the internet because he wanted to harm himself if he didn’t do well on tests.

[Image via Northampton District Attorney’s Office]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.