Editor’s note: The article incorrectly said Yukai Yang is awaiting trial. A preliminary hearing will be held Feb. 8 not a trial. The article has been updated.
There has been updated information about recent crime incidents involving an attempted murder by a former Lehigh student during his time at the university and an armed burglary at an off-campus house.
Former Lehigh student charged with attempted murder
Yukai Yang, a 23-year-old former Lehigh student, was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and ethnic intimidation as he tried to poison his roommate with thallium last spring, according to Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli.
Yang was a Chinese exchange student and was forced to leave the university in April 2018.
Yang made his $200,000 bail in December, and was transferred back to Northampton County Jail at the direction of Morganelli, after being held at Lehigh County Jail by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement once his student visa had been revoked.
Yang’s roommate, Juwan Royal, had called LUPD in mid-March, complaining of feeling sick. He hadn’t called again for over two weeks, until April 5, 2018, when LUPD was called due to racist vandalism on Royal’s belongings. Yang was said to have originally found the vandalism, but he was also the last person in the room before the vandalism took place.
After comparing the handwriting of Yang and the racial slurs on Royal’s desk, Yang was named as the person who had committed the crime. He was initially charged with ethnic intimidation, institutional vandalism and criminal mischief.
The Lehigh community gathered to protest the original racist incident with a rally on campus.
After this incident on April 11, 2018, there were court orders for Yang’s cell phone and laptop to be analyzed by Lehigh County Digital Forensics Lab, according to a press release from Morganelli. This part of the case is being prosecuted in the Northampton County District Attorney’s office.
Royal released a written statement in February, noting that he drank water from the refrigerator, and felt a burning sensation on his tongue. He proceeded to wake up Yang, and reported that he immediately knew someone was putting a substance in Royal’s drink.
Royal met Investigator Devery at the LUPD Station to get blood drawn and was tested for heavy metals in April. On May 9, 2018, it was found that there was an unhealthy amount of thallium in Royal’s blood. Thallium can affect the nervous system if large amounts are ingested and can possibly result in death.
Yang was interviewed by the Lehigh University Investigations Unit on May 25, 2018, and disclosed that he had purchased chemicals, including thallium. He reported he planned on harming himself if he did poorly on exams. He admitted to mixing the chemicals with the foods in the communal refrigerator.
After his confessions, Yang was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment. His preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. before District Judge Nancy Matos Gonzalez, according to LUPD Detective Lt. David Kokinda.
The District Attorney’s Office is investigating further information it has since received about more criminal conduct, and Morganelli said the poisoning occurred over a span of a few months.
The university has offered no official update to the situation since an email to the campus community on April 7, 2018, before the public was aware of the attempted murder part of the case.
Armed burglary off Lehigh’s campus
On Jan. 17, 2019, at 1:16 a.m., a call was made to Bethlehem police, stating that a man had entered a home and intended to burglarize an off-campus house on the 300 block of East Fifth Street, according to The Morning Call. The owner of the home chased him out into another person’s backyard.
The owner of this home called the police as well, according to Detective Sgt. Robert Toronzi of Bethlehem police.
“The homeowner was brought to see if the suspect was the same as the one he called about,” Toronzi said.
He was, and he was identified as 19-year-old Gabriel Garofalo of Pierce Street.
Toronzi said Garofalo did not resist when arrested and surrendered himself. Garofalo had entered the home with a loaded gun.
Garofalo allegedly stole $33. He was charged with burglary, criminal trespass, loitering and prowling, receiving stolen property, and theft by unlawful taking.
Garofalo’s bail was set at $150,000. He is in jail, and a tentative court date is set for Feb. 28, 2019.
“The court date can always change if he gets a lawyer, and the lawyer needs more time to prepare,” Toronzi said.
Toronzi said that incidents off of Lehigh’s campus are a serious issue.
“I know that this is a problem with kids living off campus,” Toronzi said. “There’s always an unlocked door somewhere.”
Toronzi said that over break, people know that the place is empty and will take advantage. He said he’s also seen people walk into a party and walk out with a laptop or gaming system because of the quantity of people at the party.
Students were shaken up about the incident. Jared Gelber, ’21, a prospective resident of Pierce Street, called the events “a bit unsettling” and has decided to look into other housing options since the burglary.
“I’m not living on Pierce (Street) now,” Gelber said.
A current neighbor of the burglarized home, Kevin Graff, ’19, said that he signed up for LUPD’s off-campus registry, where the police department will check his house every day over winter break. But he said he’s learned to become more proactive when it comes to safety since hearing about the burglary.
“It just makes me more thoughtful about making sure all the doors are locked before I go anywhere,” Graff said. “Thankfully, we haven’t had any issues.”