Former Lehigh University student Yukai Yang, 24, pled guilty to attempted murder for poisoning his roommate Juwan Royal with thallium in 2018
Royal was diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning in April 2018 after having his food, drinks and mouthwash spiked with the toxic substance for three months
Thallium is odorless and tasteless, and can be fatal in humans; it has been banned for use in rat poison since the 1970s
Yang, a Chinese national had his student visa revoked and his bail bond raised from $200,000 to $2.5m last year after he tried to flee US
He was previously charged with ethnic intimidation for writing N-word on Royal’s bed; Royal is black
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan 21
He faces between six to 20 years in state prison, followed by deportation to his native China
Former college student Yukai Yang, 24, pled guilty to attempted murder in a Pennsylvania on Monday, ending a year of trial where he is accused of poisoning his college dorm roommate.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office will withdraw other charges in two separate cases against Yang.
The former Lehigh University student on Monday admitted poisoning his roommate’s food and drink with a toxic heavy metal substance previously used in rat poison.
Yang, a chemistry major from China, acknowledged he purchased thallium in March 2018 and began feeding it to his roommate, Juwan Royal.
Royal who likened the pain from the poisoning to being stabbed with ‘hundreds of tiny knives,’ testified in an earlier court hearing that he suffered weight loss, headaches and nausea.
Thallium is odorless and tasteless, and can be fatal in humans. Royal was diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning in April 2018.
The soft metal is used internationally in electronics manufacturing and for other purposes. It once was used in rat poison in the US, but has been banned for that use since the 1970s.
Prosecutors said Yang spiked Royal’s food, beverages and mouthwash with small amounts of thallium from February through April 2018.
Royal called police for the first time in February when he drank from a water bottle in his room and his tongue began to burn.
He said he woke up Yang to tell him what happened and washed his mouth out, but his tongue remained sore for a few days.
Then on March 18 Royal got sick again and police were called.
Prosecutors said Yang told officers that the milk in the refrigerator and Royal’s mouthwash had changed color. He told officers he believed someone was tampering with the belongings in their room.
Royal became sick again on the morning of March 29 when he began throwing up and shaking, ending up in hospital for treatment.
About a week later, graffiti that said ‘n***** get out of here’ was scrawled on Royal’s bed and police were called. Royal is black.
Yang denied he was responsible, but a comparison of the graffiti with Yang’s letters by police forensics highlighted similarities.
The motive is not known. Months before the attempted murder charge, Yang was charged with ethnic intimidation over the racial insult.
After Yang’s computer was seized, he admitted to buying chemicals online which he claimed was intended to harm himself if his grades started to decline.
Ultimately Yang admitted to spiking food and drinks in the dorm refrigerator with the chemicals.
Northampton County Deputy District Attorney Richard Pepper said Royal spent about two years in physical therapy because of neurological damage from the poison, reported Lehigh Valley Live.
‘Two and a half years later he’s still having neurological issues with his toes,’ Pepper said in court.
Yang faces between six to 20 years in state prison when he’s sentenced on January 21. The maximum sentence is 20 to 40 years in prison. There is no sentencing bargain in the case, Deputy DA Pepper said
Yang is not a US citizen, and his student visa was revoked after his arrest. The judge told Yang he will likely face deportation to China upon completing his sentence.
His bail bond was raised from $200,000 to $2.5 million last year when he allegedly tried to flee the U.S. and return to China, according to AP. His defense attorney Janet Jackson said in court Tuesday that Yang suffers from mental health issues.