Bail Revoked for Former Lehigh University Student Charged With Poisoning Roommate

The former Lehigh University student allegedly used thallium, once used as a household rat killer, to slowly poison his roommate

A former Lehigh University student charged with trying to slowly poison his roommate to death had his bail revoked Friday over fears that he would try to flee to China to avoid prosecution.

The decision to revoke bail comes after Yukai Yang, a Chinese national in the U.S. on a student visa, was rearrested in December after initially posting $200,000 cash bail in hopes of being deported back to his home country.

Yang is being held in Northampton County Jail, with a detainer from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His visa has also been revoked.

In addition to attempted murder and related charges, Yang is charged with ethnic intimidation for allegedly vandalizing his roommate's belongings with racist graffiti. Earlier reports had indicated that authorities were probing a possible second poisoning, but Northampton County Assistant District Attorney Abraham Kassis said that was not the case.

The former Lehigh University student allegedly used thallium, once used as a household rat killer, to slowly poison his roommate.

Authorities first zeroed in on Yang after the roommate, who is African American, reported in 2018 that his belongings had been vandalized and scrawled with the N-word, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said.

As police investigated that case, they noticed that the roommate appeared to be sick. He told police that he had been ill for some time and contacted law enforcement in March of last year after uncontrollable vomiting.

"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."

During that time, police officers were called to his room on multiple occasions and found a racially-charged note on the victim's desk.

The victim told investigators he remembered drinking from a bottle and his tongue starting to burn, officials said. Blood tests later revealed an increased level of thallium in his blood.

Yang told investigators he saw the victim's milk and mouthwash change color and that he believed someone was tampering with items in the room, Morganelli said.

Yang, a chemistry student, admitted to buying thallium online with the purpose of poisoning himself if his grades went down, Morganelli said. Thallium exposure can lead to nausea, painful limbs, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, kidney damage and nerve damage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The victim, who has since graduated, is still suffering from ill effects of the thallium poisoning.

Yang's lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment.

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