BOSTON (AP) — A former Boston College student made her first court appearance Friday to face charges that she encouraged her boyfriend to take his own life in what prosecutors describe as a toxic and abusive relationship.
Inyoung You, 21, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston after prosecutors say she voluntarily returned to the U.S. from South Korea, where she has been at least since the charges were announced in October.
You, dressed in a white sweater and black pants, didn’t speak during the proceedings. She was taken into custody in handcuffs after the judge set her bail at $5,000. She posted bail soon afterward and was released.
You, who was born in South Korea and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, was also ordered to surrender her passport. Her trial date was set for November 2020. She also has a court date in January.
Prosecutors say You and Alexander Urtula, 22, of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, exchanged more than 75,000 texts in the last two months of their 18-month relationship, more than 47,000 of them sent by You.
They say You isolated Urtula from his friends, urged him multiple times to “go kill yourself” and called him “worthless” in a constant barrage of messages.
Urtula died in Boston on May 20, just minutes before his Boston College graduation.
During You’s arraignment, assistant prosecutor Caitlin Grasso said the two Boston College students had met through the university’s Filipino student society.
You, she said, became upset after learning Urtula was still communicating with an ex-girlfriend.
Grasso read from some of the thousands of expletive-laden messages You sent to Urtula, many of them sent in a stream of one-word bursts and capital letters.
She also detailed how You, who had been set to graduate in 2020 before withdrawing over the summer, forced Urtula to block his friends on social media and regularly monitored his location through his smartphone’s GPS.
“The defendant became physically, verbally, and psychologically abusive,” Grasso said.
The couple frequently talked about suicide, with You driving those conversations, she added.
Urtula had no prior mental health issues before his relationship with You, Grasso said, but in the months before his death had written in his journal that You “attacks my self-worth.”
He also said he feared leaving her because she had threatened to harm herself and blame him for it, Grasso said.
“These text messages demonstrate the power dynamic of the relationship,” she said. “The defendant and Mr. Urtula discussed how the defendant owned Urtula, how he was her slave, and how Mr. Urtula ceded his autonomy to the defendant as a condition of the relationship.”
The two had been together the morning he died, Grasso said, and You knew nearly an hour before Urtula’s death exactly where he was and didn’t ask anyone for help when she got there.
The place Urtula died was where You had earlier threatened to kill herself, according to Grasso.
You, through a public relations firm, released text messages this week that suggest she tried to stop Urtula and alerted his brother in the moments before his death.
“please baby i’m almost there please,” she wrote in the burst of messages. “please don’t push me away PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME PLEASE.”
Urtula responds at one point: “this is goodbye forever. I love you. This isn’t your fault it’s mine.”
The judge issued an order Friday restricting You’s lawyers from releasing more information to the public. You’s lawyer objected in court; her public relations firm didn’t respond to an email seeking comment about the order.
Urtula’s relatives said they are devastated by his death.
“Since losing Alexander in May, the Urtula family and everyone who loved Alex has been devastated by his loss,” the family said in a statement ahead of Friday’s proceedings. “Not a minute of any day goes by without those who loved Alex grieving and continually feeling the sharp pain of his passing all over again.”
The case echoes the Michelle Carter case, which garnered national headlines and an HBO film.
The young Massachusetts woman was sentenced to 15 months in jail after she was convicted in 2017 of involuntary manslaughter for using text messages and phone calls to encourage her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, him to kill himself in 2014.
Carter’s lawyers maintained her texts were constitutionally protected free speech.
Her conviction was upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court but has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which hasn’t yet decided whether it will take up the case.