SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — About 465 days have passed since Zhifan Dong, a University of Utah student, was found dead inside a Salt Lake City motel

According to Salt Lake City Police, the investigation started when Haoyu Wang, 26, sent an email to the University of Utah staff on Feb. 11, 2022, saying he and Dong intended to commit suicide together. Police documents state Wang allegedly wrote in the email that he wanted to inject Dong with heroin to “relieve her from suffering,” and they would be dead by the time they were found.

Wang reportedly told police he had bought the drugs via the dark web and had them shipped to the hotel room. About a month before this, Wang was arrested on an assault charge for allegedly hitting Dong. She reportedly called the police again the following day because of his behavior. 

Attorney Brian Stewart with Parker & McConkie represented the Dong family, settling with the University of Utah over how abuse allegations were handled for $5 million

“This is their only daughter. This is the only grandchild of four grandparents. And so to a certain extent, their hope of the future, their family, has ended with the loss of their daughter,” said Stewart. 

Stewart added that the relationship between Dong and Wang was fairly new, and her parents didn’t know much about him. 

“They clearly didn’t understand the magnitude of the risk or the problem that their daughter faced when she was at the University of Utah and in that abusive relationship,” said Stewart. 

All the family wants is a fair trial, Stewart said, but that is being delayed. According to court documents, Wang has recently been found not competent to stand trial with a substantial probability of being restored to competency in the future. 

Wang’s defense argued he has limited mental functioning, adding he has been hospitalized at least eight times in China and the U.S. His past diagnoses range from mania, PTSD, major depressive disorder and borderline personality disorder.

The defense also wrote about Wang’s delusions that are centered on him “being eternally punished, and his case outcome is foreordained.” These delusions, the defense claims, prevent him from having the rationale needed to have a fair trial. 

Wang is no longer in jail. He is being treated at the Utah State Hospital in the hopes he can be restored to competency. In Utah, the Department of Health and Human Services can spend up to 37 months restoring a person. If they are still not competent, the judge could dismiss the charges. 

On December 12, 2022, Wang’s attorney told the judge a forensic evaluator had read through 745 pages of treatment records. Those records are private. 

While Wang continues restoration treatment, Dong’s family waits for answers 6,000 miles away in China. 

“They sent her to the United States to get an education and to have a bright future and, unfortunately, they never saw her again because of the actions of this defendant,” said Stewart.