Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Former Lehigh student charged in poisoning

Monday, December 24, 2018 by BERNIE O’HARE Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

A former Lehigh University senior chemistry major has been charged with attempting to murder his roommate with thallium.

Yukai Yang, 22, has been charged with attempted murder and related offenses. According to Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who announced the charges Dec. 20, Yang admitted to Lehigh University police that he had purchased thallium online and intended to use it on himself if he did poorly on exams. He admitted to mixing it with food and beverages in a refrigerator he shared with his roommate.

Thallium is considered extremely toxic. Its use has been banned in the United States since 1972 after several accidental deaths resulted when it was being administered as a pesticide.

Testing of the roommate’s blood revealed unsafe thallium levels, according to Morganelli.

This poisoning goes back to March and April, when Lehigh University police responded to several complaints from Yang’s roommate, Juwan Royal. He told police of changing colors in his milk and mouthwash. In addition to getting ill, his personal property was vandalized on several occasions. On his desk, someone had scrawled “NIGGER, GET OUT OF HERE” with a black marker.

Lehigh University noticed similarities between the message in marker and a written statement from Yang, and charged him in May with malicious mischief, institutional vandalism and ethnic intimidation. Yang was free on $10,000 bail (10 percent). He is a Chinese citizen and resides in Easton with his mother.

A trial date is scheduled for late January on the ethnic intimidation charges. According to Lehigh University newspaper Brown & White, Yang’s student visa has been revoked.

Yang never took those exams. He was suspended by Lehigh. Royal graduated from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences in May.