BOSTON (NYTIMES) - A former Boston College student has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the suicide of her college boyfriend on his graduation day, prosecutors announced on Monday (Oct 28).
The charge, announced by Rachael Rollins, the Suffolk County district attorney, bore similarities to the case of Michelle Carter, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 for repeatedly urging a close friend in text messages to kill himself.
The former student Inyoung You, 21, and her boyfriend Alexander Urtula, 22, were attending Boston College when Urtula leapt to his death from a parking garage in the Boston neighbourhood of Roxbury on May 20.
Urtula's family, from New Jersey, was in Boston that day to watch him appear in the graduation ceremony at 10am that day. He died about 90 minutes before it began.
In a news conference, Rollins said You had been physically, verbally and psychologically abusive to Urtula over the course of an 18-month relationship, with the abuse becoming more intense and demeaning in the days and hours before his death. She said classmates and family members had observed the abuse, which was also documented in Urtula's journal and in tens of thousands of text messages.
Rollins said You urged Urtula hundreds of times to kill himself and repeatedly told him that she, his family and the world would be better off without him. You also used attempts and threats of self-harm to control Urtula, Rollins said.
The New York Times was unable to contact a representative for You on Monday.
Prosecutors said that on the morning of Urtula's suicide, You was tracking his location on her phone, as she frequently did, and was present on the roof of the garage at the time that he jumped.
"The indictment alleges Ms. You's behaviour was wanton and reckless, and resulted in overwhelming Mr Urtula's will to live," Rollins said, "and that she created life-threatening conditions for him that she had a legal duty to alleviate, which, we allege, she failed to do."
"Domestic violence may not always look the same," she added, "but it is always about power and control."
You, who studied economics and was scheduled to graduate in May 2020, withdrew from classes in August, according to a Boston College spokesman.
She is currently in South Korea, where she is from, Rollins said. Prosecutors said that a grand jury returned an indictment in the case this month and that they were working to secure You's return to the United States.
"We're in contact with somebody who is saying that they're representing her, to see if she will voluntarily return," Rollins said. "If she does not, we will utilise the power we have to get her back."
In the two months before Urtula's death, Rollins said, the couple exchanged more than 75,000 text messages, including more than 47,000 sent by You.
Asked to compare this case with the case of Carter, who was 17 when her friend, Conrad Roy III, killed himself, Rollins said that there were similarities but also significant differences.
Carter had very limited physical contact with Roy, but "we have, quite frankly, I would say, the opposite of that", she said. "We have a barrage of a complete and utter attack on this man's very will and conscience and psyche by an individual, to the tune of 47,000 text messages in the two months leading up, and an awareness, we would argue, of his frail state at that point."
The Massachusetts Legislature is considering a Bill called "Conrad's Law" that would make it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to encourage or coerce someone into killing himself or herself.
The Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn said Urtula was a biology major. He had completed his course work in December 2018 and was working as a researcher in New York at the time of his suicide.
"Alexander was a gifted student at Boston College, who was involved in many activities, including the Philippine Society of Boston College," Dunn said. "We continue to offer our condolences to Alex's family."