When Juwan Royal discovered someone had trashed his Lehigh University dorm room, he had no idea it was his roommate and friend Yukai Yang.
But even more alarming, Royal didn’t know Yang was slowly poisoning him.
According to Morning Call, Yukai Yang, a chemistry major, is accused of attempted murder following a monthslong investigation into a case that District Attorney John Morganelli called “weird and bizarre.”
In April, Royal, who was a senior at Lehigh, reportedly discovered that someone had broken into his room while he was out and written “NIGGER GET OUT OF HERE” on his desk. Yang reported the vandalism.
When police took a statement from Yang, they noticed his handwriting was curiously similar to the racial epithets, Lehigh Valley Live reports. After investigating a little further, authorities eventually charged Yang with ethnic intimidation, institutional vandalism and criminal mischief, all misdemeanors. Yang, who was also a senior chemistry major at Lehigh, was reportedly suspended from the Bethlehem, Pa., school and banned from campus.
Authorities now reportedly believe that in the months leading up, Yang was putting thallium, an odorless and colorless chemical used as rat poison, into Royal’s food and drink, possibly along with other chemicals, Morganelli said at a news conference.
On one occasion in February, Royal reportedly remembered drinking from a water bottle and feeling a burning sensation on his tongue that left it sore for three to four days.
Twice in March, Royal was so sick that campus police were called to his room, Morganelli said. After one of those calls, Royal was taken to a hospital by ambulance after he reported he had been vomiting for more than 45 minutes, Morganelli said.
Tests revealed that Royal’s blood contained thallium at a level that is dangerous for humans, Morganelli said. Royal’s symptoms matched those of thallium poisoning and included extreme pain in his lower extremities, as well as severe burning and numbness, Morganelli said.
Royal and Yang had lived together for years. Even when Royal passed out after feeling dizzy or vomiting for 45 minutes, he didn’t suspect his roommate and friend, Yang. Thankfully, Royal got a lot better after he graduated and began receiving medical treatment.
Morganelli said Royal, who graduated from Lehigh University last spring, needed intensive medical treatment.
“The victim is still experiencing physical symptoms from the poisoning that occurred, so this is something that has had some lasting impact,” Morganelli said.
In an interview with investigators on May 25, Yang admitted he used the internet to purchase chemicals that included thallium, and to mixing them into foods and drinks he stored in a refrigerator he shared with Royal, Morganelli said. But Yang claimed he intended to use the poisons to harm himself “if he did poorly on future exams.” Some suspect Yang might have heard the internet rumor that colleges award students with a 4.0-grade point average for the semester if their roommate dies.
Those statements contrasted with what Yang told police and Royal at the time of his roommate’s sickening, when he said he suspected “someone” was tampering with items in the room, according to authorities. Yang reported he had noticed the milk in the refrigerator had changed color, as had Royal’s mouthwash.
Prosecutors say Royal, who is still suffering from the effects of the alleged poisoning, was “dumbfounded” when he learned Yang was the main suspect.