A 19-year-old University of Utah student was killed Friday in what police are calling a domestic violence situation.
The woman, an international student from China, was found dead in a Salt Lake City motel room, police said. She is the second Chinese student at the U. to be killed in less than five years. Previously, ChenWei Guo was shot east of campus in October 2017.
In that same time frame, three female students have previously died from intimate partner violence. Another woman, who was an employee at the U., was killed by her estranged husband in a campus parking lot in 2016.
In connection with the death of the student Friday, officers have arrested a 26-year-old man, also an international U. student from China, a school spokesperson confirmed.
“The death of any young person embarking on adult life is devastating,” Chief Safety Officer Keith Squires and Vice President for Student Affairs Lori McDonald said in a Friday letter sent to students. “On behalf of the university, we extend our heartfelt grief and sympathy to the family, friends and classmates of the victim during this incredibly difficult time.”
The woman was found dead at a Quality Inn on 616 South 200 West during a welfare check by Salt Lake City police, in a room registered to the man. Officers had been called there after the U.’s police department alerted them that the man had allegedly made threats to the woman, whom he identified as his girlfriend.
Her name has not yet been released as officers work to inform her family. The Salt Lake Tribune is not naming the man, who has not been charged.
According to a statement of probable cause, the man sent an email to a University of Utah employee that stated he had injected the victim with drugs to “relieve her from suffering.” The email indicated that the couple would be dead before they were found.
Salt Lake City police, assisting University of Utah officers, arrived at the Quality Inn after pinging the woman’s cellphone location. They found the suspect in the room with the victim’s body, police said.
The suspect reportedly told police that he and the woman intended to die by suicide together, and that he had ordered drugs on the “dark net,” according to the probable cause statement. The suspect said the two took those drugs, and the woman became unresponsive.
He said he then injected her with more drugs, and the woman died, according to the document. The suspect then injected himself and remained in the room until police arrived, he told police.
Salt Lake City homicide detectives continue to investigate.
Court records show the man had previously been charged with one count of assault for domestic violence in mid-January.
According to the documents, the suspect allegedly assaulted someone on Jan. 12 at 171 W. 500 South, minutes from the location of the motel he was found in Friday. He was scheduled to appear in court for that charge on Feb. 16.
The U.’s response and history
In their statement Friday, Squires and McDonald at the U. said the campus will be mourning the loss of the 19-year-old student.
“We know this news is difficult to process and will affect members of our campus community — especially those who are survivors or close to survivors of domestic violence,” they added.
The school said anyone who needs resources can contact the U.’s Counseling Center at 801-581-6826 or the Center for Student Wellness, which has victim-survivor advocates, at 801-581-7776.
The U. also said international students who are feeling concerned can reach out to International Student and Scholar Services by calling 801-581-8876 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Unfortunately, domestic violence is more prevalent than many of us are aware, even among college students,” the letter to students read.
The death of the student is at least the eighth killing or high-profile death of a student or staff member of the U. since 2016. Four of those previously killed were women, all of whose deaths were linked to domestic violence.
• In December 2016, U. staff member Katherine Peralta was killed in a campus parking lot by her husband after she told him she planned to file for divorce.
• Student-athlete Lauren McCluskey was shot to death outside the dorms in October 2018 by a man she briefly dated.
• Medical resident Sarah Hawley was shot and killed by her boyfriend in their home in January 2019.
• And MacKenzie Lueck, a 23-year-old kinesiology major at the university, was killed in June 2019 by a man with whom she had communicated on a dating app.
In October 2017, 23-year-old Guo, a computer science major from China, was killed in a carjacking.
He had been sitting in the dirt parking lot in Red Butte Canyon with a friend. Austin Boutain, 24, has since pleaded guilty to shooting at the car Guo was in five times, hitting and killing the student. Boutain then ordered the passenger out of the car and fired his gun towards her as she ran, but he missed.
Boutain agreed to be sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the Utah State Prison.
Two other students at the U. have also recently been killed: Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan, both of whom were football players. Jordan died in December 2020, the victim of an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound near his home in Denton, Texas; Lowe was shot and killed outside a Salt Lake City house party in September 2021.
Editor’s note • Those who are experiencing intimate partner violence, or know someone who is, are urged to call the Utah Domestic Violence Link Line, 1-800-897-LINK (5465), or the Utah Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Line, 1-888-421-1100. If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.