BOSTON — A former Boston College student is facing involuntary manslaughter charges after investigators say she encouraged her boyfriend's suicide through a barrage of text messages.
Authorities say 21-year-old Inyoung You was there when her boyfriend, 22-year-old Alexander Urtula, jumped from a parking garage to his death on the morning of May 20, hours before Urtula was set to walk at his graduation.
Now, You, a South Korean national currently back in her home country, is being indicted on involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with her boyfriend's suicide.
Detectives say they determined that You was physically, verbally and psychologically abusive toward Urtula during their 18-month relationship. Authorities say the abuse became more frequent, more powerful, and more demeaning in the days and hours leading up to Urtula's death.
Prosecutors added You was controlling to the point where she would track Urtula's location through his cellphone to find him.
Dr. Meghan McCoy, a researcher at the Massachusetts Aggressive Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University, which focuses on bullying and cyberbullying, says a case like this highlights the concerns about social media and mental health among young people.
McCoy says it's likely we'll see more cases like this or the Michelle Carter case, where social media and texting play a significant role.
"It's easy to hit the block button but then there's so many other aspects, they can direct message you on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.," said McCoy. "Digital technologies can exacerbate some of the issues that have been going on for centuries."
Becki Maki, the aunt of Conrad Roy, the young man who killed himself after also being coerced to do so by his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, believes the similarities between the two cases indicate a larger issue involving the weight text messages have.
"Text messages, they hold just as much weight as words, if not more," said Maki. "You can text message throughout the day and evening and all throughout the night and the constant barrage I think wears people down."
McCoy says some messages people send through texting likely wouldn't be things someone would say in person.
It's harder to spot warning signs of digital abuse, McCoy says, but it's still possible to notice signs when someone is in danger.
"Seeing some sort of anxiety when they go to log onto some social media or go to open apps on their phone," said McCoy. "Those are some things we kind of notice with kids as well."
Officials say in the two months prior to Urtula's death, the couple exchanged more than 75,000 text messages, of which You sent more than 47,000.
Amid the tens of thousands of text messages shared by the couple were texts from You saying things like "Go kill yourself," or "Just die."
"From my family's perspective, we feel for the Urtula family," said Maki. "It's very painful to lose someone so young. I just can't imagine what would lead somebody to do something like this, to actually get someone to kill themselves."
According to Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, "many of the messages display the power dynamic of the relationship, wherein Ms. You made demands and threats with the understanding that she had complete and total control over Mr. Urtula both mentally and emotionally. Her texts included repeated admonitions for Mr. Urtula to "go kill himself" to "go die" and that she, his family, and the world would be better off without him.
The indictment alleges You's behavior was wanton and reckless and resulting in "overwhelming Urtula's will to live; and that she created life-threatening conditions for Mr. Urtula that she had a legal duty to alleviate, which she failed to do."
Cox Media Group