A former Lehigh University student confessed to poisoning his Black college roommate. According to WFMZ, Yukai Yang, 24, admitted that he poisoned Juwan Royal’s food and drink with a noxious heavy metal-thallium.
On Monday, the former chemistry major pleaded guilty to attempted murder which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, WFMZ reported.
In early 2018, Yang, a Chinese citizen, purchased thallium, an odorless, colorless chemical used in rat poison, from the internet to poison an unsuspecting Royal repeatedly between February and April. In December of that year, he was charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment.
今天，24岁的中国留学生杨玉凯(Yukai Yang,音译）在法庭表示对用铊毒害室友Juwan Royal谋杀未遂的罪名表示认罪。根据认罪协议的条款，北安普顿县地方检察官办公室将撤销对杨玉凯的其他两项单独案件的指控。 pic.twitter.com/r7nyXzlzqF
— 马可 Marco (@Marco201202) December 1, 2020
Royal’s health deteriorated rapidly after initially suffering from chemical burns from drinking the water Yang poisoned in the refrigerator the two students shared.
Royal will make a statement at the sentencing hearing for his former roommate, which is scheduled for Jan. 21. According to the local news channel, Yang also faces deportation in accordance with his guilty plea. However, he will have to serve his full prison term before the expulsion occurs.
Since the poisoning, Royal told the court he suffered weight loss, headaches, nausea and heart palpitations, WFMZ reported. He added that a tingling sensation in his body turned into "unfathomable pain" that would cause him to have difficulty sleeping or going up steps. Royal was later diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning.
Royal’s damaging testimony detailed the egregiousness of Yang’s crimes. He disclosed that although he no longer has pain, he still suffers from numbness in his lower extremities.
The county’s Assistant District Attorney Katherine Kumas told Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) just how serious the thallium’s effects were on the young man’s body.
“This poisoning caused serious bodily injury in the nature of diarrhea, vomiting, skin lesions, syncope, dizziness, and, most severely, neurological effects in the nature of bilateral polyneuropathy, which involves damage to peripheral nerves,” she told C&EN.
“The victim continues to have no feeling whatsoever in his bilateral toes, more than two and a half years after the poisoning,” she added.
According to CBS News, the university’s police department also collaborated with prosecutors to bring Yang to justice.
“The Lehigh University Police Department has worked closely with the District Attorney’s Office on the investigation and will continue to do so,” the news channel reported. “From the outset, our concern has been the health and safety of the victim of these alleged behaviors and, as such, Lehigh staff and faculty have been providing support, services and assistance.”
Once Yang is sentenced, charges stemming from two separate cases will be dropped, according to a plea deal from the Northhampton County District’s Attorney’s office.
Prior to being charged with attempted murder for poisoning Royal, Yang was charged with ethnic intimidation for allegedly damaging his roommate's TV and writing racial epithets on his belongings, as Blavity previously
According to Lehigh Valley News, Yang’s $200,000 bond was raised to $2.5 million in 2019 after he allegedly tried to flee the country and return to his native China.