He suspected that his roommate had left the racist graffiti. He didn’t know anything about the poison
This spring would have been the triumphant final act of Juwan Royal’s time at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn. But it was a time of terrifying uncertainty.
The senior suffered from seizures and hit accidentally like lightning strikes. Pain shot from his hips to his toes. He felt a burning sensation in his mouth and once had to be rushed to a hospital in an ambulance after throwing up for 45 minutes.
But Royal’s illness was overshadowed by another incident on April 5th. That Thursday, around 12:30 p.m., Royal left his room on Warren Square A, a two-story brick house that had been broken down into single and double rooms for students living on the west side of the campus. According to a LehighValleyLive story from that period, he later learned from his roommate, Yukai Yang, that their room had been ransacked. Royal’s TV and bed were damaged. Royal, who is African American, had also defaced his desk. Someone had written the n-word in black markings, followed by “Get out of here”.
Royal’s mysterious illness and racist graffiti were not isolated cases. At a press conference on Thursday, Northampton County Dist. Atty. John Morganelli said Yang was responsible for the vandalism and secretly poisoned Royal with dangerous chemicals.
“This was over a period of small amounts of poisoning,” said Morganelli. “It was added to food and drink in the refrigerator.”
Yang – an international student from China – was arrested and charged Thursday with attempted murder, aggravated assault, ordinary assault and reckless endangerment. Morganelli called the case “weird and bizarre,” the Morning Call reported. Investigators don’t know why the 22-year-old allegedly turned on his roommate.
“Mr. Royal was just as amazed by this as everyone else,” said Assistant Dist. Atty. Abraham Kassis told reporters, “He believed they had a pretty warm relationship as roommates.”
Yang’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Yang is accused of poisoning his roommate with thallium. Accidentally discovered in 1861, the chemical is, according to an article by Dr. Cyrus Rangan, assistant medical director of the California Poison Control System, wrote in 2007 a “tasteless, odorless and extremely potent poison”. “”[A]Cute ingestions of just one gram of thallium salt can kill an adult. “
The substance has been used in both fiction and fiction in high-profile poisoning. Famed crime novelist Agatha Christie killed characters with thallium in her 1961 book The Pale Horse. It was also the poison that Saddam Hussein’s regime used to kill dissident Iraqi scientists in the 1980s. The substance was previously widely used as a rat poison and insecticide, although it has been banned in most countries, including the United States, since 1975.
However, according to Rangan, thallium is still used in countries like Russia and China.
Like Royal, Yang was a senior at Lehigh this spring. As a chemistry student, he and Royal had been friends and roommates for several years. But the bizarre actions began to unfold in February.
One night that month, Royal was drinking from a water bottle and immediately felt a burning sensation in his mouth, LehighValleyLive reported.
Alarmed, he woke Yang and together they stormed into the bathroom, where Royal washed out his mouth. Morganelli told reporters Thursday that Yang cryptically told his roommate, “The substance you put in your drink is colorless, odorless, and dissolves in water.”
For days, Royal’s tongue was sore from the experience.
On March 18, he fell ill again. This time the police were called. “He was sitting at his computer before he got dizzy and passed out,” Morganelli said at the press conference.
Yang allegedly had a strange explanation again: he told the police he thought someone was tampering with the liquids in her room. Yang explained the milk in the unit’s refrigerator and Royal’s mouthwash had unexpectedly changed color. “Mr. Yang couldn’t speculate on any suspect at the time,” said Morganelli.
In the early morning of March 29th, Royal called the campus police again. “He had vomited for over 45 minutes and was feeling very shaky,” said Morganelli. This time he was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The next week the room was destroyed. According to Morganelli’s press conference, the investigation into the destroyed room has alerted police to the poisoning. The victim voiced his suspicions to the police.
“Mr. Royal told officials at the time that he felt that Mr. Yang, his roommate, was somehow responsible for the damage that was done to his property,” the prosecutor told reporters. Royal explained that Mr. Yang was the person who always found the strange incidents in his room. “
Yang gave investigators a written statement of his movements the day the room was destroyed. The handwriting matched the sheet and the words were scrawled on the desk, the police said. Yang was arrested and eventually charged with ethnic intimidation, institutional vandalism and criminal mischief, all offenses.
His cell phone and computer were confiscated. Information on the devices indicated the poisoning. Royal was given a blood test. It was found that he had 3.6 micrograms of thallium in his system, which was above the safe level of toxicity.
“Thallium affects the nervous system, lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys when large amounts are eaten or ingested for short periods of time,” said Morganelli. “Temporary hair loss, vomiting, and diarrhea can also occur, and death can occur after exposure to significant amounts of thallium.”
According to the morning call, Yang interviewed investigators on May 25th. During the conversation, police admitted they bought thallium and other chemicals online and mixed them into the food and drinks in the room’s refrigerator. But Yang claimed that he only intended to poison himself if he did not do well in the upcoming exams.
Yang was suspended after his arrest in the spring. He is no longer enrolled in the school and, according to authorities, his student visa has been revoked. His criminal charges of vandalism are pending and Yang is currently in custody.
Royal graduated from Lehigh that spring. He still suffers from the aftereffects of the thallium.
“We’re trying to explain the inexplicable because right now everyone is saying, ‘What could have happened? ‘Kevelis Matthews-Alvarado, the consultant in the building where the roommates lived last year, told Philadelphia’s CBS 3. “We just don’t know.”
Swenson writes for the Washington Post.