Student arrested for slowly poisoning his Black roommate

Yukai Yang (Image source: North Hampton Sheriff’s Office)

An attempt to obtain a college education almost cost a Black student his life, according to police. The incident occurred at Leigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, when Yukai Yang, 22, a chemistry major and foreign student, began putting a poison known as thallium into products owned and consumed by Juwan Royal.

According to The Washington Post, the two had been roommates for several years and seemed to get along well. But a few months ago, Royal started having bouts of dizziness, vomiting and headaches that had him confused as to what was the cause. In February 2018, Royal was drinking bottled water, and his mouth began to burn. The feeling did not go away for several days and Royal sought medical attention. At that time, the hospital could not determine a cause for the illness.

Juwan Royal (Image source: LinkedIn)

When police initially questioned Yang, he told them that some of his roommate’s products in the house had changed color. He further pointed out to police someone had written “N-word get out of here” was on Royal’s bed after he left, and the apartment was locked.

According to Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, “This was over a period of time with thallium being added to foods and drinks in the refrigerator. He was getting worse all the time.”

Royal had at least three more bouts of illness, and police were called again to investigate in March 2018. When police investigated the handwriting of the message left on Royal’s bed, it was determined that Yang wrote the racist threat and he was questioned.

Royal also went to the hospital and blood tests were run and it was found that he was suffering for thallium poisoning.  “This was over a period of time with thallium being added to foods and drinks in the refrigerator,” Morganelli said. “He was getting worse all the time.”

Thallium was used in rat poison until its use was banned in the United States. Despite Yang’s protests, he eventually cracked under pressure when police examined his computer. It was found that Yang had ordered the poison online for a concentrated campaign of racist terror against his Black roommate.

Yang initially told police he had ordered the poison to kill himself because he was depressed over his poor grades. Yang was arrested and charged with ethnic intimidation, institutional vandalism and criminal mischief. His bail was set at $200,000, and his student visa has been revoked because of his arrest. He has also been expelled from Leigh University. His roommate was able to graduate in Spring 2018 but still suffers from the effects of the poisoning.

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.