College student arrested for allegedly trying to murder his roommate with poison

College student arrested for allegedly trying to murder his roommate with poison

On Thursday, a former student at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was charged with attempted murder. Yukai Yang allegedly used thallium to poison his roommate, Juwan Royal, adding it to his food and drinks over a period of at least two months.

According to Assistant District Attorney Abe Kasis Royal didn't know why he'd been falling ill over several months, and was "dumbfounded" when he found out who was potentially responsible. However, defense attorney Janet Jackson insists that Yang "specifically denies every allegation of the criminal complaint" and added that "the suggestion that there is a racial motive is completely without merit".

Credit: Northhampton District Attorney's Office

"He denies any animosity towards Mr. Royal," she said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "He was his closest friend at Lehigh. They were roommates for four years and best friends."

Royal first reported he had passed out in March, and during the police visit to their home, Yang told the police that milk in the refrigerator and Royal's mouthwash had changed colours. According to an affidavit, Yang said he didn't know who to suspect, but believed someone may be tampering with items in the room. Eleven days later, Royal went to hospital after throwing up for 45 minutes and feeling "shaky".

In April, police returned - this time for vandalism. Their TV had been broken, while the n-word and "get out of here" had been written on Royal's desk. Yang was the first person to discover the message, and Royal told campus police that he believed he may be behind it. According to him, his roommate "always found the strange incidents happening in his room." Yang was then arrested, and later charged with criminal mischief and ethnic intimidation.

Doctors later performed various blood tests on Royal, revealing unsafe levels of thallium, a chemical best known as 'the poisoner's poison'.  Northampton County DA John Morganelli, who referred to the case as “weird and bizarre,” said that there were "small amounts of poisoning occurring" with the chemical "being added to food and drinks in the refrigerator".

Yang confessed to buying the thallium online, but claimed that it was his plan to use it on himself if he failed his upcoming exams. Later, he admitted to mixing it with food that he shared with Royal.

The substance can cause major damage to organs and the nervous system, and could result in death. When he was admitted to hospital, Royal had reported extreme pain in his lower extremities, sever burning, and numbness.

Credit: Juwun Royal / Facebook

A case was built against Yang, but he wasn't charged until they could show that he had taken a significant step towards killing his roommate. His defence attorney claimed that they had "reasonable doubt" not to go through with their planned charges at the time - but now police have charged him with the crime.

This recent charge of murder is joined by two counts of reckless endangerment and assault, leaving Yang's student visa revoked and his bail set at $200,000.