To reach a suicide prevention hotline, call 888-568-1112 or 800-273-TALK (8255), or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
BOSTON — A former Boston College student who prosecutors say drove her boyfriend to take his own life with thousands of text messages pleaded guilty Thursday to involuntary manslaughter.
Under terms of a plea deal, Inyoung You, 23, received a 2 1/2 year suspended jail sentence and 10 years of probation and was barred by a judge in Suffolk Superior Court from profiting from her case in any way. The sentence means You can avoid time behind bars if she adheres to all the terms of her probation, which includes continued mental health treatment and community service.
Prosecutors said You sent Alexander Urtula, 22, of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, tens of thousands of messages in the last two months of their relationship, including many urging him to “go kill yourself.” Urtula died in Boston in May 2019, the day of his Boston College graduation.
The investigation described You and Urtula’s 18-month-long relationship as “tumultuous, dysfunctional, and unhealthy,” and found You, “engaged in deeply disturbing and at times relentless verbally, physically and psychologically abusive behavior toward Mr. Urtula,” according to a statement from the office of Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins released after Thursday’s hearing.
Those actions intensified in the days and hours before Urtula’s death, the office said.
You, who was born in South Korea and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, sent Urtula more than 47,000 text messages from late March 2019 until his death in which she “repeatedly told the victim that he should kill himself or die and waged a campaign of abuse that stripped the victim of his free will,” the office said.
“Words matter,” Rollins said in the statement. “Demeaning language, ridicule and verbal abuse can deeply impact people.”
The plea deal was reached in consultation with the Urtula family, Rollins said.
The family in a statement read in court described driving to Boston for a day of celebration and instead finding themselves planning a funeral.
“We bear no feelings of anger or reprisal. We believe that time will take us through in the moments we mourn and celebrate his life,” the family said.
Before her arraignment in November 2019 when she originally pleaded not guilty, You, through a public relations firm, released some of the text messages suggesting she tried to stop Urtula and alerted Urtula’s brother in the moments before his death.
You was given the opportunity to speak in court, but declined. Her lawyer said she was “very distraught.”
Attorney Steven Kim said You is a “wonderful young woman who has deep, deep remorse.”
The case was compared to that of Michelle Carter, who 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, to kill himself in 2014. Her attorney argued that her messages were protected free speech.