Xiangyu Ouyang, a cancer biology PhD student at Stanford University, was arrested after she confessed to poisoning her classmates’ water bottles. She is facing four felony poisoning charges after she carried out the poisoning over several weeks.
The 26-year-old received the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) scholarship from Singapore to attend Stanford. Her scholarship was rescinded due to the charges and she now faces up to eight years behind bars.
Officials say that she poisoned water bottles belonging to classmates with paraformaldehyde from September to November 2014. Ouyang admitted that she poisoned two students’ bottles and her own as well.
One of the victims told police that after she drank from the bottle she “immediately experienced a burning sensation in her mouth and throat. Her eyes became irritated and watery. She began salivating uncontrollably. Her throat was burning so bad that she could not even swallow the water.”
After taking a sip, another student yelled, “I think someone is trying to kill me!”
Former roommates and colleagues described Ouyang as quiet and shy. They never suspected that she would try to cause someone harm.
Ouyang told police that she was seeing a psychiatrist and was taking anti-depressants. However, the medication was causing extreme insomnia and dizziness.
She said: “I am truly sorry for what happened, but I really didn't mean to harm people. It was me crying out for help.”
A Stanford spokesperson addressed the media, saying, “This was a sad, heartbreaking situation for everyone involved.
“This was a confined, isolated circumstance and there was no threat to the broader campus community," the spokesperson added. "The university has been providing support to the group impacted.”
The spokesperson also noted that Ouyang is no longer a student at Stanford.
Paraformaldehyde is an embalming fluid and causes skin irritation, respiratory ailments and can cause death. It is also used in pesticides.
If she is convicted under California law, Ouyang faces up to eight years in prison. She has been released on $50,000 bond.