Boyfriend’s suicide after 75,000 texts
Less than two hours before Alexander Urtula was due to graduate from Boston College, the promising 22-year-old student, struggling with declining mental health, took his own life.
His 21-year-old girlfriend Inyoung You, a South Korean student also studying at the college, had tracked Mr Urtula on his iPhone to a parking garage in the Massachusetts city, where she allegedly watched him end his life just after 8.30am on May 20 this year.
In a press conference earlier on Tuesday, Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said the iPhone tracking was one of the thousands of ways Ms You had "complete and total control" over her 22-year-old boyfriend.
In the final two months of their relationship, Ms Rollins said the young college couple had exchanged more than 74,000 texts. Ms You was responsible for more than 47,000 of them.
NATIONAL 24/7 CRISIS SERVICES
Thousands of those were of Ms You explicitly telling her boyfriend to "go die" or commit suicide.
"I would comfortably say thousands of times, hundreds of times certainly," Ms Rollins said, referring to the explicit texts.
"In the 47,000 texts, yes there were many, many instances where she instructed him to do so."
Ms You, who had been studying economics at Boston College, quit classes in August and returned to South Korea. She was due to graduate in May 2020.
But now, prosecutors are speaking to a lawyer representing Ms You in the hopes of getting her to voluntarily return to the US - where she will face a charge of involuntary manslaughter for allegedly encouraging Mr Urtula to take his own life.
Ms You, Ms Rollins said, was "physically, verbally and psychologically abusive towards Mr Urtula during their 18-month relationship".
"The abuse became more powerful and more demeaning in the days and hours leading up to Mr Urtula's untimely death," Ms Rollins added.
The Boston prosecutor said the abuse was "documented extensively" in the couple's texts and was regularly witnessed by family and classmates.
Mr Urtula also wrote about their tumultuous relationship in his journal.
Ms Rollins said the 47,000 texts sent by Ms You in the final two months of their relationship "clearly displayed the power dynamic in the relationship".
"The investigation revealed Ms You used manipulative threats of self harm to control him, and also found she was aware of his spiralling depression and suicidal thoughts brought on by her abuse, yet she persisted.
"Ms You's behaviour was wanton and reckless and resulted in overwhelming Mr Urtula's will to live."
Ms Rollins said the tragedy was compounded by the fact that Mr Urtula's family had only recently arrived in Boston from the US state of New Jersey to see their son graduate at 10am that day.
"Mr Urtula's family was in town from New Jersey to watch him walk across the stage graduating from Boston College...his family never got to do so," she said.
"It was an incredibly tragic event where his family was present waiting for him to arrive... there are a series of correspondence between him and family where ultimately they learned that he intended to do this."
Mr Urtula was a biology major who had completed his course work and was working as a researcher at a hospital in New York at the time of his death, Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn said in a statement.
He was also active in the Philippine Society of Boston College, an organisation of Filipino American students.
Ms Rollins said their prosecution office was fully ready to "utilise the power we have" to get her back to the US to face court.
She said she was "cautiously optimistic" Ms You would come voluntarily but if not, the office would start the extradition process.
This case drew immediate comparisons to the high-profile case of Michelle Carter and her boyfriend Conrad Roy.
Ms Carter was sentenced to 15 months in prison earlier this year after she was found guilty of pressuring her boyfriend to take his own life in 2014.
Ms Carter's lawyers maintained her texts were constitutionally protected free speech.
Her conviction in 2017 was upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, but has been appealed to the US Supreme Court, which hasn't yet decided whether it will take up the case.
A new law called Conrad's Bill is before government in the US now which will make encouragement of suicide punishable by up to five years.
Despite the similarities, Ms Rollins maintained, the two cases were still very different.
"This is a distinct fact pattern, the similarities in that culprit are both the girlfriends," Ms Rollins said.
"But where I would distinguish, in Carter, there was very little physical contact prior and some very egregious contact in the moments leading up to death.
"We have quite frankly the opposite of that, we have a barrage of a complete and utter attack on this man's very will and conscious and psyche to the tune of 47,000 text messages in the two months leading up and an awareness, we would argue, of his frail state at that point."