Officials probe possible second Lehigh U. poisoning case

A former Lehigh University student charged with poisoning his roommate posted $200,000 cash bail and hoped to be deported to China to avoid prosecution, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Yukai Yang, 23, was back in local custody after authorities learned of the plan and had him returned from federal immigration custody to the Northampton County Jail in Pennsylvania.

They are meanwhile investigating whether a second student was also poisoned with the chemical thallium. That probe is in its early stages, District Attorney John Morganelli said.

"Mr. Yang thought that because he is a foreign national, now here illegally in that his student visa has been revoked, that he could post bail, waive his right to a deportation hearing and abscond," Morganelli said in a statement. "That will not happen."

He believed that Yang's mother posted the cash bail this past week. Court papers identify the person as Hua Shi. Yang's lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

Yang, a senior chemistry major, was charged this month with poisoning his roommate's food, drink and mouthwash with thallium over several months, causing the victim bouts of dizziness and vomiting. Investigators think he bought the odorless, colorless chemical, once sold as rat poison, online, Morganelli said.

He was initially charged this spring with vandalism and ethnic intimidation after the roommate, who is black, found racist graffiti in the room. The roommate has since graduated, but continues to suffer effects of the poisoning, authorities said. The two had lived together for several years without incident, authorities said.

Yang is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and other charges.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next week.