BOSTON • 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 said on Monday.
The charge, announced by the Suffolk County district attorney Rachael Rollins, closely mirrors the case of Michelle Carter, who was convicted of the same charges in 2017 after encouraging her then boyfriend to kill himself.
The former student, South Korean national Inyoung You, 21, and her boyfriend, Mr Alexander Urtula, 22, were attending Boston College when Mr Urtula leapt to his death from a parking garage in the Boston neighbourhood of Roxbury on May 20.
Mr Urtula's family, from New Jersey, was in Boston to attend the graduation ceremony at 10am that day. He died about 90 minutes before it began.
In a news conference, Ms Rollins said the accused had been physically, verbally and psychologically abusive to Mr 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 Mr Urtula's journal and in tens of thousands of text messages.
In the two months before his death, Ms Rollins said, the couple exchanged more than 75,000 text messages, including more than 47,000 sent by the accused.
Ms Rollins said the accused urged Mr Urtula hundreds of times to kill himself and repeatedly told him that she, his family and the world would be better off without him. She also used attempts and threats of self-harm to control him, Ms Rollins said.
The New York Times was unable to contact a representative of the accused on Monday.
The Michelle Carter case
BOSTON • Michelle Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 for repeatedly urging a close friend - her then boyfriend Conrad Roy III - in text messages to kill himself.
Carter was 17 when Roy killed himself in 2014. He was 18 years old at the time.
He had poisoned himself with carbon monoxide in a truck he parked in a Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
Carter texted Roy the day of his death that he should follow through with his suicidal plans if death was truly what he wanted. When he had doubts about going forward, he stepped out of his truck. Carter told him to "get back in".
"You're fine, it's gonna be okay. You just gotta do it babe, you can't think about it," she texted.
Carter waived her right to a jury trial and was convicted in 2017 by a juvenile court judge, who said Carter's "virtual presence" made her culpable in Roy's death. However, she remained free while her lawyers appealed her conviction to the state of Massachusetts' highest court, which eventually denied the appeal, The Boston Herald reported.
Carter was sentenced to 15 months in prison, which she is currently serving. In July this year, her lawyers asked the Supreme Court to vacate her conviction, arguing that her messages were protected under the First Amendment right to free speech.
The Massachusetts Legislature is considering a Bill called Conrad's Law that makes it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to encourage or coerce someone into killing himself.
Prosecutors said that on the morning of Mr Urtula's suicide, the accused was tracking his location on her phone, as she frequently did, and was present on the roof of the garage at the time he jumped.
"The indictment alleges Ms You's behaviour was wanton and reckless, and resulted in overwhelming Mr Urtula's will to live... and that she created life-threatening conditions for him that she had a legal duty to alleviate, which, we allege, she failed to do," Ms Rollins said.
"Domestic violence may not always look the same," she added, "but it is always about power and control."
The accused, who studied economics and was scheduled to graduate next May, withdrew from classes in August, according to a Boston College spokesman. She is currently in South Korea, where she is from, said Ms Rollins.
Prosecutors said a grand jury returned an indictment in the case this month.
Ms Rollins said her office is in contact with someone who is representing the accused, but she did not disclose the attorney's name.
The authorities hope she will return voluntarily but if she does not, Ms Rollins said, they will "utilise the power we have to get her back", including by extradition. She said one option could be an Interpol "red notice", which would alert the international policing organisation's 194 member nations, including South Korea, to the US warrant for her arrest and request that she be detained and extradited. The United States and South Korea signed an extradition treaty in 1998.
Ms Rollins said some of this case's basic facts were similar to the Carter case: Both occurred in Massachusetts and carried allegations of a young woman encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself.
But while Carter had very limited physical contact with her boyfriend, "we have, quite frankly, I would say, the opposite of that", Ms Rollins 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," she added.
The Boston College spokesman said Mr Urtula was a biology major. He had completed his course work last December and was working as a researcher in New York at the time of his suicide. He was gifted and active, the spokesman said, and was a member of the school's Philippine Society.