A Chinese man who was studying chemistry at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University on a student visa has pleaded guilty to attempted murder after poisoning his former Black roommate’s food and drinks with heavy metal in 2018.
According to WFMZ, the accused, Yukai Yang, entered the guilty plea – one count of attempted murder – on Monday in exchange for the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office to drop other charges in relation to two other cases after he is sentenced.
He was initially charged with attempted murder, reckless endangerment and assault. The 24-year-old faces 6 to 20 years in prison, and also faces deportation to his native China after serving his time as he’s a non-US citizen. His student visa has also been revoked.
Testifying before the court, First Assistant District Attorney Richard Pepper said Yang purchased the poisonous heavy metal, thallium, in March 2018, and then started lacing it in the food and drinks of his roommate, Juwan Royal. The two had reportedly been roommates for four years.
Royal, who testified in 2018, told the court about the “unfathomable pain” he felt and the string of medical conditions he suffered, including nausea, weight loss, headaches and heart palpitations, due to the thallium poisoning, WFMZ reported.
Royal said he initially started feeling a tingling sensation in his arms, hands, feet and legs. He said the tingling sensation aggravated into a “pain that I didn’t think was possible.”
“It was as if someone took a hundred tiny knives, set them on fire and was stabbing my feet,” he told the court.
Between March and May of that year, Royal testified he lost around 20 pounds and could hardly ingest any food, adding that the poisoning even made him afraid to eat. Royal also said the pain in his feet was so “excruciating” he could neither sleep nor climb the stairs and had to even wear a heart monitor for some time as a result of the palpitations.
“It felt as though my body was failing me,” he testified. He was reportedly diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning in April 2018. Though the pain in his feet eventually disappeared, Royal told the court he still feels numbness in his toes, and he is less energetic as compared to his condition prior to the poisoning, WFMZ reported.
Royal said he couldn’t identify what may have caused Yang to poison him. Though he admitted they weren’t the best of friends, he described their relationship as amicable and friendly. Prior to the attempted murder charges being filed against Yang, he was being investigated for ethnic intimation after he allegedly destroyed Royal’s television and also wrote racial slurs on his stuff.
Yang’s sentencing is scheduled for January 21, although subject to change.