For months, Inyoung You subjected her boyfriend at Boston College to a campaign of psychological cruelty, “unrelenting abuse” that escalated over time, prosecutors said Monday.
A 21-year-old from South Korea, You exerted almost complete control over Alexander Urtula, isolating him from his friends and family and exploiting his deepening depression. She sent Urtula nearly 800 texts a day over two months this spring, repeatedly urging him to take his own life, prosecutors said.
On May 20, hours before he was going to receive his college diploma with his parents looking on, Urtula jumped off the roof of a Roxbury parking garage. You, who had tracked him through his phone, watched nearby as he fell to his death, prosecutors said.
On Monday, Boston prosecutors said that You had been indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter in Urtula’s death, alleging that her “wanton and reckless” behavior — chronicled in an astounding trove of 75,000 text messages — had overwhelmed his will to live.
“Ms. You was aware of his spiraling depression and suicidal thoughts brought on by her abuse,” Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Monday. “Even still, she continued to encourage Mr. Urtula to take his own life.”
It was unclear if You has a lawyer for this specific case. She could not be reached for comment.
During the couple’s tumultuous 18-month relationship, You was “physically, psychologically, and verbally abusive,” Rollins said.
“The abuse became more frequent, more powerful, and more demeaning in the days and hours leading up to Mr. Urtula’s death,” she said.
“This unrelenting abuse was witnessed by friends and classmates of both parties and documented extensively in text messages between the couple, and in Mr. Urtula’s journal entries.”
Urtula, a son of Filipino immigrants who was studying biology, grew up in Cedar Grove, N.J., where he taught tae kwon do to children, volunteered for three years at a food bank, and was a member of the tennis club and the medical science club at his high school, Regis High School.
“He was a remarkable young man who could’ve done anything in this world,” said Tim Smith, a family friend who knew Urtula for 15 years.
The manslaughter allegations, handed down by a grand jury on Oct. 18, were a grim echo of the criminal case against Michelle Carter, the Plainville teenager who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the 2014 death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. In the months leading up to his death, Carter repeatedly sent him texts urging him to take his own life.
The charges gained national attention and sparked a legal debate over whether words alone should justify charges of murder or manslaughter in cases of coerced suicide.
Carter’s lawyers appealed the conviction, arguing that Carter could not be convicted on the basis of speech alone. The state Supreme Judicial Court upheld the conviction, which has been appealed to the US Supreme Court.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts had opposed Carter’s prosecution, saying it violated free speech protections.
“This case is indisputably tragic, and our thoughts are with Alexander’s family and friends. We continue to have concerns that involuntary manslaughter prosecutions are not constitutional when they are based solely on encouraging speech,” the ACLU said Monday.
It is unclear when You, who is now living in South Korea, will be arraigned on the charges. Rollins’ office has contacted an attorney for her asking that she return to the United States willingly. The lawyer’s name was not released Monday.
If she does not agree to come willingly, prosecutors will seek to have her extradited back to the United States, Rollins said.
Boston criminal defense attorney Norman Zalkind said You could fight extradition “on various grounds” in South Korea. Possible arguments against extradition could include asserting that the allegations do not constitute a crime in South Korea, said Zalkind, who in 2015 represented a Massachusetts man who was extradited to Scotland to face an attempted murder charge.
“My initial reaction would be: Fight it,” said Zalkind of extradition in the You case. You could also negotiate a return that included specific bail stipulations, he said.
Extradition orders are “kept fairly secret until they’re actually issued,” he said.
You faces up to 20 years in prison if she is convicted. Carter was sentenced to 15 months.
You withdrew from BC in August, four months after Urtula’s suicide. An economics major, she had been scheduled to graduate next May.
An examination of Urtula’s phone showed that in the two months leading up to his death, he and You sent each other more than 75,000 texts, 47,000 of which came from You. She told Urtula to kill himself hundreds, if not thousands, of times before he finally took his own life, Rollins said. She would also threaten to hurt herself in a bid to manipulate him, Rollins said.
“We have a barrage and a complete and utter attack on this man’s very will and consciousness and psyche by an individual,” said Rollins, who called the case a tragic example of domestic violence.
On the day of Urtula’s death, You used her phone to track him to the Renaissance Parking Garage near the Ruggles MBTA Station, Rollins said. Police learned she was present when he died through witness interviews and her own conversations with investigators, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case.
Urtula had planned on becoming a doctor, said Natana J. DeLong-Bas, a theology professor at BC. Urtula took a yearlong seminar with her in theology, said DeLong-Bas, who said she was devastated by his death.
She recalled him as a young man with a “deep care for justice and ethics” who mentored other Filipino students at BC.
“He was a thoughtful participant — always trying to see how to apply what he learned in class,” DeLong-Bas said. “He was always busy, involved with activities and, especially, with people . . . I know he would have been an excellent doctor.”
He had been working as a research assistant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the hematology division, according to his LinkedIn page. In the summer of 2014, he worked as an office assistant at Emagen Dental in New York, where a former colleague said he “brought light and humor to the office.”
“The office hasn’t been the same without him and will not be the same without him,” said the colleague, who asked that her name be withheld.
BC sent an e-mail to students in May following Urtula’s death that described him as a “gifted student” who was active in the Philippine Society of Boston College, a social group that celebrates Filipino heritage.
Urtula’s Facebook page was covered with cheerful posts promoting the group, urging people to come to fund-raisers and events of the society.
“THE BIGGEST WEEK for PSBC!!!!” he exclaimed in a March 2017 post. “We have a bunch of dope events for you this week!”