A Stanford grad student is charged with poisoning her research classmates by dumping powerful and deadly chemicals into their water bottles, but may try to claim that she was not responsible due to her fragile mental health.
Xiangyu Ouyang, a 26-year-old graduate student from Singapore, was arrested and charged with poisoning four classmates who worked with her in the Nusse Lab doing research on stem cells. The incidents took place in the fall of 2014, starting when one classmate noticed that someone appeared to have sabotaged her research on stem cells.
Soon afterward, other students began finding strange things in their water bottles. One victim said she drank water from a bottle — which had reportedly been left in the lab unattended — and had an immediate burning sensation in her throat.
“She began to salivate uncontrollably and felt her esophagus contracting,” a police statement read. “The water smelled faintly of PFA.”
Another student experienced the same burning sensation after taking a drink from her water bottle.
“Her eyes became irritated and watery. She began salivating uncontrollably. The experience was 10 times worse than the first time. Her throat was burning so bad that she could not even swallow the water,” police documents obtained by the campus publication the Hopper read.
Police began looking into the incidents in November, at which time Ouyange checked into a hospital for treatment of mental health issues. She was placed on a psychiatric hold, court documents showed.
After being released, the grad student reportedly admitted to poisoning her classmates, telling police she first tested it on herself by putting paraformaldehyde in her water bottle and not suffering any effects.
The Stanford grad student accused of poisoning her classmates told police that she stopped taking anti-depressant medicine leading up to her bizarre behavior.
“I am truly sorry for what happened, but I really didn’t mean to harm people,” she told police. “It was me crying out for help.”
She may be planning to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, the San Francisco Chronicle noted.
Xiangyu Ouyang has already been kicked out of school and banned from the campus.
“This was a sad, heartbreaking situation for everyone involved,” university spokeswoman Lisa Lapin told the Chronicle. “This was a confined, isolated circumstance and there was no threat to the broader campus community. The university has been providing support to the group impacted.”
The Stanford grad student accused of poisoning her classmates will be back in court on May 15.
[Image via The Straits Times]