China student accused of poisoning roommate

HARRISBURG (Pennsylvania) • A Chinese student attending Lehigh University in Pennsylvania has been arrested and charged with attempting to murder his roommate of four years with a component of rat poison, prosecutors have said.

Yang Yukai, 22, who is in the United States on a student visa, is to appear in court next month to face charges that he put thallium - a component of rat poison - in the milk and mouthwash of his roommate, Mr Juwan Royal, who is black, according to charging documents.

He had already been under investigation for charges of ethnic intimidation for allegedly scrawling a racist message on Mr Royal's desk and damaging his TV last spring shortly after the authorities believe he began trying to poison Mr Royal.

Yang ordered thallium online.

The pair had been roommates since freshman year and Yang graduated last spring.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said of Mr Royal in a news conference last Thursday: "He experienced extreme pain in his lower extremities as well as burning and numbness. He required intensive medical treatment."

Lehigh University spokesman Lori Friedman said the university cooperated closely with the district attorney, but could not comment further because of federal student privacy law. She said that Mr Royal has not graduated.

Mr Royal reportedly still suffers from the after-effects of thallium.

Lehigh University police said in charging documents that Yang, a chemistry major, admitted to ordering thallium online, but insisted it was to poison himself if he did poorly in his exams.

Blood tests, conducted after multiple unexplained incidents of illness in March, confirmed that Mr Royal had ingested thallium, a nerve agent that also damages the lungs, heart, liver and kidney.

Yang was ordered to be held in Northampton County Prison under US$200,000 (S$275,000) bail. He is due in court on Jan 3.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 23, 2018, with the headline 'China student accused of poisoning roommate'. Print Edition | Subscribe