BOSTON – Echoing the high-profile Michelle Carter case, state prosecutors in Massachusetts brought an involuntary manslaughter charge Monday against a former Boston College student who they allege pressured her boyfriend to kill himself through relentless abuse.
Inyoung You, 21, of South Korea, was charged in connection with the May 20 suicide death of her boyfriend, 22-year-old Alexander Urtula, of Cedar Grove, New Jersey. Urtula, also a Boston College student, jumped from the top of a parking garage at a Boston hotel on the morning of his graduation. His girlfriend of 18 months watched, prosecutors said.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said the couple exchanged 75,000 text messages in the two months leading up to Urtula’s death. She said 47,000 were sent from You to Urtula including perhaps “thousands” urging him to kill himself. Urtula’s family was in town to attend his graduation when he died.
“Many of the messages clearly display the power dynamic in the relationship where Ms. You made demands and threats with the understanding that she had complete control over Mr. Urtula, both mentally and emotionally,” Rollins said.
You is currently in her native South Korea, Rollins said. She said authorities will look to extradite her to the United States if she does not voluntarily turn herself in. A grand jury returned the indictment charging You on Oct. 18.
USA TODAY was unable to immediately reach You or her attorney for comment.
Rollins said You’s abuse was physical, verbal and psychological. She said You was aware of Urtula’s “spiraling depression and suicidal thoughts brought on by her abuse – yet she persisted, continuing to encourage him to take his own life.”
Her texts, according to prosecutors, included repeated abusive remarks for Urtula to “go kill himself” to “go die” and that she, his family and the world would be better off without him.
The new charge drew immediate comparisons to the high-profile case involving Carter, also in Massachusetts, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 suicide death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. Carter, who is serving 15 months in prison, was found guilty of pressuring Roy to kill himself in repeated text messages.
Rollins said You was tracking Urtula’s location on the morning of his suicide, “as she frequently did,” on her phone. She said You went to the parking garage and was present when Urtula jumped to his death.
“Abuse became more frequent and more powerful and more demeaning in the days and hours leading up to Mr. Urtula’s untimely death,” Rollins said. “The abuse was witnessed by family and classmates of both parties and documented extensively in text messages between Ms. You and Mr. Urtula and in Mr. Urtula’s journal entries.”
She added: “Students come to Boston from around the world to attend our renowned colleges and universities, eager to learn and experience our vibrant city. Their families and loved ones certainly do not expect them to face unending physical and mental abuse.”
Carter, now 22, was denied early release by the Massachusetts Parole Board in September. She’s been in prison since February after being convicted in 2017.
Rollins said there are “similarities, of course” with the Carter case but called it a “separate and distinct case.”
“Where I would distinguish, and I think the facts will show, in Carter, there was very limited contact prior,” she said. “We have a barrage, a complete and utter attack on this man’s very will and conscience and psyche by an individual to the tune of 47,000 text messages in the two months leading up.”
Jack Dunn, a spokesman for Boston College, said Urtula was a biology major and had completed his course work in December 2018. A gifted student, Urtula was working as a researcher in New York and was involved in many activities, including the Philippine Society of Boston College, Dunn said.
He said You studied economics at and withdrew from classes in August. She was scheduled to graduate in May 2020.
“We continue to offer our condolences and prayers to Alex’s family,” Dunn said, referring all questions on the indictment to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.
Carter was 17 at the time of Roy’s death in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. She pressured him incessantly by text messages to kill himself leading up to his death, which was caused by inhaling fumes from a generator that he put inside a truck. Roy had attempted suicide multiple times and had struggled with depression and mental illness.
Carter, of Plainville, Massachusetts, had a lengthy phone call with Roy when he was parked in a Kmart parking lot, where the death occurred, and later texted a friend that she told him to “get back in” the vehicle after he had stepped out.
Carter filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn her 2017 involuntary manslaughter conviction by a state court. It was upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in February.
The troubling case re-entered the spotlight this summer with HBO’s release of a two-part documentary, “I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter.”
With the backing of Roy’s mother, Lynn Roy, Massachusetts state lawmakers are considering legislation, dubbed “Conrad’s Law,” that would criminalize suicide coercion in the commonwealth.
Massachusetts is one of 10 sates that lack laws that explicitly punish individuals who induce others to kill themselves. Rather than being subject to manslaughter, like Carter, the bill would impose a new criminal liability specifically for a person who intentionally “encourages or coerces” a suicide or suicide attempt.