SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The University of Utah has reached a $5 million settlement with the parents of an international student who was killed last year at a Salt Lake City hotel.
In a statement released Tuesday, Feb. 21, representatives from the U announced they will be paying $5 million to the parents of the female student, Zhifan Dong, 19, no later than March 31 as part of a settlement agreement, which is pending approval by the Utah Legislature.
“The Dong Family is grateful to close this chapter of their journey for justice for their daughter,” said Brian C. Stewart, attorney for the Dong family. “They sincerely hope that Zhifan’s memory will inspire others to help prevent intimate partner violence and save lives on campus and in all our communities.”
Dong was allegedly killed by a fellow student, Haoyu Wang, 26, on Feb. 11, 2022. According to the U, Wang faced allegations involving domestic violence against Dong prior to the incident.
Per Utah State Code, all settlements relating to government entities that exceed $1 million will need to be approved by the Legislature. S.J.R. 11, sponsored by Jerry Stevenson (R-Layton), states that Dong’s parents are required to drop all claims against the U as part of the settlement agreement.
A memorial for Dong will be established on campus grounds, according to settlement documents.
“Our campus continues to mourn the death of Zhifan Dong,” said the University of Utah President Taylor Randall. “Today’s settlement demonstrates our seriousness in honoring Zhifan Dong and reaffirming our commitment to the ongoing work of addressing all aspects of student safety.”
According to a timeline compiled by the U, Wang reportedly sent an email to the housing administrator saying he and Dong intended to commit suicide together on Feb. 11 at around 3:51 a.m. The administrator saw the email at 4:55 a.m. and called the University police, who enlisted the help of the Salt Lake City Police Department.
Authorities reportedly pinged their phones and located them in a downtown Salt Lake City motel room. Dong was found dead in the room as police took Wang into custody, the affidavit says.
Wang allegedly injected a lethal dose of heroin into Dong and then attempted to kill himself by injecting himself with drugs as well. Police say he ordered fentanyl and heroin on the dark web.
The timeline document also revealed that Wang faced domestic violence allegations prior to the incident, which the University had on its records. As well the University had reports from Dong that Wang was having suicidal ideations weeks before she was killed.
Wang has been charged with first-degree murder and two counts of possession of intent to distribute, according to court documents.