After the university made a ton of public records available to the public, the family of Zhifan Dong, a Chinese student at the University of Utah who was killed allegedly by an ex-boyfriend and fellow student, is speaking out. The records seem to demonstrate numerous instances where people ignored her cries for help.
Mingsheng Dong, Dong’s father, and Junfang Shen, her mother, said in their first media interview with NBC Asian America that in addition to the pain of losing their 19-year-old daughter, they felt blindsided by the school’s inaction. They emphasized that she had approached university officials for assistance before going to police.
The parents claimed that while school officials initially assured them that they had taken all necessary precautions to protect Dong, they failed to mention a number of apparent errors made by housing staff, which were revealed in the documents shared by the school. For example, they claimed that they failed to inform school police about a man’s arrest just one month earlier after an altercation with Dong.
The university claimed to have done everything for Zhifan, but this was not the case.
Mingsheng Dong and Junfang Shen are the parents.
The couple first learned of the university’s shortcomings from the news, followed by police and district attorney statements.
We believed the school had done the right things but was unable to protect her before the investigative report was made public. The university claimed to have done everything for Zhifan, but the parents of Dong said in an email translated through a translator that this was untrue.
They failed to disclose their mistakes to us prior to posting the document or file. We were only made aware of it by the news. Zhifan sought the school for assistance. The parents said that the school first refrained from calling the police.
Zhifan Dong and Swoop, the mascot at the University of Utah
Thank you Dong Family
The University of Utah claimed in a statement to NBC that it has publicly admitted flaws in how it handled the issue, including missed opportunities to alert authorities, unclear procedures and staff trainings, and inadequate and unprofessional internal communication.
According to the university, Zhifan Dong’s death was tragic and serves as an example of the widespread issue of intimate partner abuse, which cuts across national boundaries. We send our condolences to her family and friends since it is tragic.
The parents are currently suing the school while also lamenting the loss of their one and only child.
We can’t move past it. The parents indicated that it has been really challenging for us, both mentally and physically. We frequently dream that she is back with us since we still find it hard to accept that this has happened.
Parents of Dong claimed that they felt cheated and misled. This action displays blatant bureaucratic conceit, a disdain for human life, and a grave error.
Freshman Dong was discovered dead on February 11 in a downtown Salt Lake City motel room with her ex-boyfriend, Chinese overseas student Haoyu Wang. She received a lethal quantity of heroin and fentanyl from him, he subsequently admitted. Wang has been charged with murder and has entered a not guilty plea through Joseph C. Alamilla, his attorney. On August 8, he will go before a competence hearing.
Alamilla previously told NBC News that everyone involved in this case has mental health issues that must be resolved before the case goes to trial.
In response to a request for remark, the lawyer remained silent.
University records, which became public when The Salt Lake City Tribune campaigned for the release of public information regarding the case, revealed that staff members of the housing unit had been aware of Dong’s risky situation with Wang, 26, for weeks.
The documents state that Dong informed the housing department of the school on January 14 that Wang had been detained by Salt Lake City Police two days prior for beating her during a fight. But according to the records, housing staff members didn’t inform school police about the arrest until approximately a month after Dong vanished.
The publicized records not only revealed errors in the handling of domestic abuse claims but also cast doubt on the school’s capacity to assist international students. Records showed that the housing staff frequently contacted the wrong number for a different student with the same name as Wang and mistook Dong’s name for Wang’s.