BOSTON — Inyoung You, a former Boston College student accused of pressuring her boyfriend to kill himself through relentless psychological and verbal abuse, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter Friday morning as prosecutors unloaded a mountain of previously undisclosed text messages and other evidence.
You, 21, was making her first appearance in Suffolk County Superior Court after returning from her native South Korea more than three weeks after being charged in the suicide of 22-year-old Alexander Urtula.
She was handcuffed and taken into custody following the half-hour hearing. A magistrate set her bail at $5,000 in exchange for her voluntary surrender, giving up her passport and agreeing to remain in Massachusetts. Trial was set for Nov. 9, 2020.
The allegations against You drew immediate comparisons to the high-profile Massachusetts case of Michelle Carter, convicted of involuntary manslaughter after texts urging her boyfriend Conrad Roy III to kill himself resulted in his 2014 death by suicide.
You, a U.S. citizen who withdrew from classes in August, was charged Oct. 28 in connection with the May 20 suicide death of 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. You, his girlfriend of 18 months, watched from the roof, prosecutors say.
The couple, who started dating in late 2017, exchanged 75,000 text messages in the two months leading up to his death — 47,000 of which were sent from You to Urtula, prosecutors say, including many texts urging him to kill himself and die.
“These text messages demonstrate the power dynamic of the relationship,” Assistant District Attorney Caitlin Grasso said. “Both the defendant and the 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 their relationship.”
In one text message cited by Grasso, Urtula wrote to You: “You own me. All of me. Only you. You have complete control of me emotionally and physically and you dictate my happiness. You owning all of me includes everything — what I think, what I feel. You own all of that. All of my history, everything. Anything you want, I want to give it to you. Your happiness is my only priority.”
In a profanity-laden text message read by Grasso, You repeatedly told Urtula to “do everyone a favor and go (expletive) kill yourself,” called him “worthless” and said “you deserve nothing.”
In another text message leading up to Urtula’s graduation, You threatened self-harm, telling him she would kill herself if Urtula didn’t die.
Steven Kim, You’s attorney, pushed back at what he called “cherry-picked statements” but did not directly address the contents of the text messages before the judge.
After the hearing, he accused District Attorney Rachael Rollins of seeking headlines by waiting for a “slow news day” last month to announce You’s indictment and “paint a fragile 21-year-old as a monster before the entire world, further traumatizing her.” He said the allegations are untrue.
“I’ve never seen in my entire career such an unjust, callous behavior by a district attorney that I can only conclude was a cheap pursuit of headlines. She got them,” Kim told reporters. “When the facts come out, it will be clear that these two young individuals — very needy emotionally — were involved in a relationship that became a toxic blend of fear, anger, need and love.”
Grasso said family and friends in interviews described described Urtula as “driven, strong-willed and a leader with no history of mental health problems” prior to meeting You. Grasso said You first became abusive in the summer of 2018 after she discovered he communicated with an ex-girlfriend at Boston College.
Grasso said an investigation prior to the indictment revealed You became “physically, verbally and psychologically abusive” over their year and a half relationship and prevented Urtula from contacting individuals who she viewed as a threat. She said multiple friends witnessed the verbal and physical abuse and are prepared to testify that Urtula was concerned that You would take her life or something “drastic” if he ended the relationship.
Grasso told the magistrate You fixated on Urtula’s upcoming graduation ceremony and how he might communicate there with the ex-girlfriend.
“The abuse intensified in the days and hours leading to Mr. Urtula’s death and the defendant’s abuse was the cause of Mr. Urtula’s suicide,” Grasso said.
You’s attorney countered the portrait painted by the prosecution.
“They simultaneously navigated pressures that everyday post-adolescents encounter with their families, their friends, social media and college life, and all the things that young people face on a daily basis,” Kim said. “They lived their lives entirely on the phone in a way that many of us who are older find it hard to believe or understand.”
A public relations firm working for You released text messages to the Boston Globe this week it claims shows she tried to convince Urtula not to harm himself moments before he jumped to his death. They were not discussed in court.
The Urtula family said in statement it is grateful for the support of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. Family members were in town to attend his graduation when he died.
“Since losing Alexander in May, the Urtula family and everyone who loved Alex has been devastated by his loss,” David Guarino, a spokesman for the Urtula family said in the statement. “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.
“Alex’s family respects the process underway in Massachusetts and, because it is ongoing and because the pain of their loss is still so fresh for those who loved him, the family will not be making any further public comments at this time.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night or chat online. You can also text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
Reach Joey Garrison and on Twitter @joeygarrison.