The University of Utah and the parents of Zhifan Dong, a 19-year-old international student from China who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend after she made multiple domestic violence reports, has agreed to a $5 million settlement.
The university published a statement on their website on Tuesday announcing the settlement.
The settlement includes a $5 million payment to the family and an agreement between the university and family to establish a memorial on campus in Dong’s memory. The settlement will not include any state appropriations or funds from student tuition.
University of Utah President Taylor Randall said the settlement “demonstrates our seriousness in honoring Zhifan Dong.”
Her murder is a reminder that intimate partner violence is a societal problem that transcends borders and cultures, and manifests in many ways. No one should have to endure the loss of a child to violence and our university will remain diligent, continue to improve, and advance the health and well-being of our students.
Dong was found dead in an off-campus motel by Salt Lake City police responding to reports that a man was threatening to kill his girlfriend.
Her body was discovered next to her ex-boyfriend, 26-year-old international student Haoyu Wang, who confessed to killing Dong with heroin to “relieve her from suffering” before attempting to kill himself with the drugs.
Wang is currently incarcerated and awaiting trial for her murder.
Documents shared by the University of Utah revealed a history of reports made by Dong to university housing staff regarding Wang’s suicidal tendencies. Wang was charged with one count of assault for domestic violence in January 2022, the same month Dong received a temporary protective order from the police.
In their own statement, Zhifan’s parents, Junfang Shen and Mingsheng Dong, thanked the university and expressed hope that their daughter’s case will help prevent future instances of domestic violence on the campus.
While we continue to mourn Zhifan’s death, we are grateful to take this important step toward justice for our daughter. We express thanks to the University and President Taylor Randall for his leadership in acknowledging our loss and working with us toward a resolution with urgency and compassion. It is our hope that Zhifan will be remembered and that her memory will inspire others to help prevent intimate partner violence and save lives on campus and in all our communities. We hope she will inspire other victims to seek help and to leave their abusers.