A school said it protected student who was killed by ex. After admitting missteps, parents feel 'betrayed.'

  • In US
  • 2022-08-05 20:15:17Z
  • By NBC News

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 after the school released a pile of public records that appear to show a multitude of failures to heed her calls for help.

Dong's father, Mingsheng Dong, and her mother, Junfang Shen, told NBC Asian America in their first media interview that on top of the pain of losing their 19-year-old daughter, they felt blindsided by the school's inaction and emphasized she had reached out to university authorities for help before going to police.

The parents said school officials initially told them they had done everything they could to protect Dong, but neglected to disclose a number of apparent missteps made by housing staff, as revealed in the documents the school shared, such as not alerting school police about the man's arrest just a month before following an altercation with Dong.

The university told us it did everything it could for Zhifan, but this turned out not to be true,"

The couple said they learned about what they said were the university's failures in the news, and later in statements from the police and district attorneys.

"Before the school released the investigation report, we thought the school had done the right things but could not protect her. The university told us it did everything it could for Zhifan, but this turned out not to be true," Dong's parents said in an email through a translator.

Image: Zhifan Dong and Swoop, the University of Utah mascot.
Image: Zhifan Dong and Swoop, the University of Utah mascot.  

"Before publishing the document/file, they didn't tell us about their failures. We had to learn about it from the news. Zhifan asked for help from the school. She didn't involve the police for a while."

In a statement to NBC, the University of Utah said it has "publicly acknowledged shortcomings in its handling of the case," including "delays in notifying police; unclear processes and staff trainings; and 'insufficient and unprofessional' internal communication."

"Zhifan Dong's death was a tragedy and illustrates the global problem of intimate partner violence - a societal issue that transcends nationality," the university said. "It's heartbreaking and we extend our condolences to her family and loved ones."

Now the parents are pursuing legal action against the school, while grieving the loss of their only child.

"We can't get over it. It has been so difficult for us, mentally and physically," the parents said. "We still don't want to believe that this really happened, and we often dream that she's back with us.

"We felt betrayed and lied to," Dong's parents said. "This is bureaucratic arrogance, contempt for life, and an unforgivable mistake."

Dong, a freshman, was found dead on Feb. 11 in a downtown Salt Lake City motel room with her former boyfriend, Haoyu Wang, also an international student from China. He later confessed to giving her a fatal dose of heroin and fentanyl. Wang has been charged with murder and pleaded not guilty through his attorney, Joseph C. Alamilla. He will face a competency hearing on Aug. 8.

"There are mental health issues concerning everyone involved in this case that will need to be addressed prior to trial," Alamilla previously said to NBC News.

The attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

University documents, which were made public after The Salt Lake City Tribune pushed for public records on the case to be released, showed that members of the housing staff had known for weeks that Dong was in a dangerous situation with Wang, 26.

According to the documents, on Jan. 14 Dong notified the school housing department that Wang had been arrested by Salt Lake City Police two days earlier for assaulting her during an altercation. However, the documents show housing employees didn't alert school police about the arrest until about a month later - after Dong had gone missing.

In addition to showing missteps in the handling of domestic violence reports, the released documents raised questions about the school's ability to support international students. Records revealed that the housing staff repeatedly confused Dong's name with Wang's, and mistakenly called the number of another student who shared the same name as Wang.  

"We felt betrayed and lied to," Dong's parents said. "This is bureaucratic arrogance, contempt for life, and an unforgivable mistake."

Zhifan Dong with her parents, Mingsheng Dong and Junfang Shen.
Zhifan Dong with her parents, Mingsheng Dong and Junfang Shen.  

The university told NBC that staff attempted to communicate with Dong, Wang and their families at least 25 times between the altercation on Jan. 12  and Dong's death. But both students and Dong's mother rejected their offers for help.

The school added that it had taken "aggressive corrective action," including disciplining three housing employees and strengthening staff training and reporting processes in its Housing and Residential Education office.

Dong, 49, and Shen, 48, are both government workers who live in China's Henan province. They said Zhifan was a smart, studious and kind person who loved small animals and dreamed of working for a gaming company after graduating college. Though she often felt homesick, Dong and Shen said their daughter adapted quickly and grew to love life in Utah.

The couple said they've been relying on friends and family to distract themselves from their grief. But the media spotlight on their daughter's death, both in the U.S. and in China, has made the effort difficult. While they've received an outpouring of online support, they said they've also had to deal with a stream of "sarcastic and tormenting" comments.

"We can't get over it. It has been so difficult for us, mentally and physically," they said. "We still don't want to believe that this really happened, and we often dream that she's back with us. If the university and police had done their jobs, our daughter's death could have been avoided."

Zhifan Dong.
Zhifan Dong.  

Brian C. Stewart, the lawyer representing the Dong family, said that in a relationship involving domestic violence, a victim faces the most danger when trying to leave or report her abuser.

"Authorities receiving that information must be there to provide protection, when the victim makes that leap of faith," he said in a statement. "The University of Utah utterly failed Zhifan in this regard, exposing her to increased risk of fatal violence for over three weeks before involving university police."

Dong is the second University of Utah student in four years to be killed after filing domestic violence reports to school officials. Lauren McCluskey, a track athlete who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2018, had called campus police more than 20 times to report harassment. In 2020, the McCluskeys secured a multimillion-dollar settlement from the university through Parker & McConkie, the law firm now representing the Dong family.

In past statements, the university acknowledged that McCluskey's murder "was a brutal, senseless and preventable tragedy," but did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

Dong's parents said that the school, at the very least, should have realized their daughter was in danger and noticed immediately when she stopped going to class and disappeared from her dorm.

"We hope that the University of Utah can better protect students, especially international students," they said, "so that no one else will have to pay the price of life because of their ineffective safety measures."


More Related News

Gun goes off inside Henry County school; student found with 2 guns in bookbag
Gun goes off inside Henry County school; student found with 2 guns in bookbag
  • US
  • 2022-08-10 23:25:08Z

Police said one of the guns went off when the student dropped the bag.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


  • Innovation Certification
    (2022-08-06 02:57:25Z)

    Participants will develop a deep understanding of the complexity and interdependencies of innovation management.

  • Scenario planning tool
    (2022-08-06 09:55:13Z)

    To keep your CInP certification, you must
    earn 45 Innovation Development Units every three years or retake the
    CInP examination.

  • What is innovation management course?
    (2022-08-06 09:55:26Z)

    It takes fortitude and perseverance, as properly as imagination, to resolve huge problems.

  • A forward-looking, versatile firm stance higher suited to handling new business trends.

  • Innovation tools
    (2022-08-06 09:56:57Z)

    Technology adjustments fast, and if you don’t have critical innovation skills, you’re falling behind.

  • Innovation Management Certification
    (2022-08-06 09:57:08Z)

    Insert your strategic planning framework into Slack, MS Teams, or a Zoom call to generate concepts and get instant
    suggestions from collaborators.

  • Brenda
    (2022-08-06 09:57:21Z)

    Intellectual Property - skilled certification Validate your data and experience in Intellectual Property through an internet...

  • Open innovation is an open-source method that facilities revolutionary considering and collaboration as
    tools for success.

  • Innovation Certification
    (2022-08-06 09:58:43Z)

    Yes, massive change initiatives like GE’s Six Sigma program sometimes require the help of an impassioned CEO.

  • The weekend studying, brainstorming, simulation and collaboration sessions
    are taught by visiting professors initially and finish of every seven-week course.

  • What is innovation management course?
    (2022-08-06 09:59:16Z)

    They helped us determine and fill the gaps, which we achieved with targeted growth
    and M&A activity.

  • What is innovation Management course?
    (2022-08-06 09:59:43Z)

    Merriam-Webster says innovation is “the introduction of something
    new” or “a new thought, methodology, or device”.

  • Innovation tools
    (2022-08-06 10:00:09Z)

    Contingency planning is a "What if" software, that only takes into account one uncertainty.

  • What is innovation management course?
    (2022-08-06 10:02:46Z)

    Our management college students be taught to embrace interdependencies, navigate complexity, and join the dots between multiple

  • What is innovation management course?
    (2022-08-06 10:13:05Z)

    Economic, environmental, and socio-cultural impacts of the hospitality
    and tourism trade are differentiated, assessed, and analyzed through real-world.

  • Scenario Planning Tool
    (2022-08-06 13:01:32Z)

    Students can pursue a professional Certificate in Innovation concurrently with their graduate diploma.

  • Scenario planning tool
    (2022-08-06 13:02:16Z)

    Alison continues to lead the free studying motion it first pioneered, revolutionising how folks be taught internationally.

  • Innovation tools
    (2022-08-06 13:02:19Z)

    The syllabus also includes classes about innovation technique, thought administration and
    social networks.

  • What is innovation management course?
    (2022-08-06 13:02:41Z)

    There are signs that firms are already paying extra attention to the human issue for innovation and the basic public notion.

  • What is innovation management course?
    (2022-08-06 13:02:49Z)

    Operational eventualities particularly explore the instant impact of an event.

  • Innovation Certification
    (2022-08-06 13:03:32Z)

    Oslo manual—guidelines for amassing and interpreting innovation data.

  • What is innovation management course?
    (2022-08-06 13:04:23Z)

    Finish a graduate certificates in as few as six months or take as a lot
    as a year.

  • best site
    (2022-08-06 17:05:35Z)

    Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing many months of hard
    work due to no backup. Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?

  • Adele
    (2022-08-06 17:30:21Z)

    of course like your web site however you need to check the spelling on quite a few of your
    posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems
    and I to find it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I'll definitely come back again.

  • Candra
    (2022-08-06 17:36:24Z)

    I know this if off topic but I'm looking into starting my own weblog and was curious what all is required to get setup?
    I'm assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I'm not very internet smart so I'm not 100% sure. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Appreciate it

  • Lucile
    (2022-08-07 06:53:06Z)

    I'm really impressed together with your writing abilities as well as with the
    structure on your blog. Is that this a paid theme or did
    you customize it your self? Anyway stay up the excellent quality writing, it
    is uncommon to peer a great weblog like this one these days..

  • a fantastic read
    (2022-08-07 07:10:38Z)

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.

    I'll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info.
    Thanks for the post. I'll certainly return.

  • Elana
    (2022-08-07 07:44:36Z)

    It's really a great and helpful piece of information. I'm happy that you shared this helpful information with us.
    Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Eric
    (2022-08-07 07:44:54Z)

    I was pretty pleased to find this web site. I need to to thank
    you for ones time for this wonderful read!! I definitely liked every part of it
    and I have you bookmarked to look at new information in your website.

  • anchor
    (2022-08-07 08:09:49Z)

    Simply desire to say your article is as surprising.
    The clearness to your publish is just great and that i
    could suppose you're knowledgeable in this subject.

    Well along with your permission let me to grasp your RSS feed to keep
    up to date with impending post. Thanks one million and please carry on the enjoyable work.

  • Verona
    (2022-08-07 08:35:37Z)

    Thank you, I have recently been searching for info approximately this
    topic for ages and yours is the greatest I have found out till now.

    However, what about the conclusion? Are you positive concerning the supply?

  • Innovation Management Certification
    (2022-08-09 02:48:08Z)

    In pursuit of this certificates, students should plan to make use of 3 of their electives to take these
    HCIN prefix courses.

  • Innovation Certification
    (2022-08-09 02:48:47Z)

    For the sake of this instance, think about a enterprise that makes HR Payroll Software — one
    which's not doing too properly as of late.

  • Innovation Management Certification
    (2022-08-09 02:50:47Z)

    Live online and on-demand course choices are available for so much of programs.

  • This certificates has an emphasis on team-building, management, communication, and building an organizational culture of

  • Scenario planning tool
    (2022-08-09 02:54:05Z)

    The effectiveness of MVP as a tool for business model innovation largely relies
    on the evaluation of the viability of the solution.

  • Innovation Management Certification
    (2022-08-09 02:54:47Z)

    The course is introductory in nature and assumes students have little or no data in regards to the improvement course of.

  • Innovation Certification
    (2022-08-09 02:57:35Z)

    The “Strategic Innovation” project consists in overcoming a strategic challenge of
    an organization.

  • This course focuses on the management role of the project supervisor, and the roles and duties of
    the staff members.

  • Innovation tools
    (2022-08-09 03:03:22Z)

    Online coursework allows students to work round different obligations, whereas weekend classes allow uninterrupted focus time.

  • What is innovation management course?
    (2022-08-09 03:13:07Z)

    ACP programs supply internship alternatives at Southern California companies.

  • Noella
    (2022-08-09 15:48:05Z)

    You are so awesome! I do not think I've read anything
    like that before. So nice to find another person with
    a few original thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously..
    thank you for starting this up. This site is something that is required
    on the internet, someone with some originality!

  • Isis
    (2022-08-09 15:49:02Z)

    First off I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question which I'd like
    to ask if you don't mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear
    your head before writing. I have had a hard time clearing my mind
    in getting my thoughts out. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes
    tend to be lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?

  • address here
    (2022-08-09 15:50:01Z)

    Excellent post. I certainly love this website. Keep writing!

  • Kristie
    (2022-08-09 15:50:20Z)

    You can certainly see your skills within the article you write.
    The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how
    they believe. At all times go after your heart.

  • Josefa
    (2022-08-09 16:06:28Z)

    Remarkable things here. I am very happy to look your
    post. Thank you so much and I am looking forward to contact you.
    Will you please drop me a e-mail?

  • Ginger
    (2022-08-09 16:10:39Z)

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my website so i came to “return the favor”.I'm
    trying to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

  • Yolanda
    (2022-08-09 16:38:35Z)

    Excellent, what a web site it is! This blog presents helpful information to us, keep it

  • Marilyn
    (2022-08-09 16:39:02Z)

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this post and also the rest
    of the website is also very good.

  • Jaxon
    (2022-08-09 16:48:07Z)

    Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your site and in accession capital
    to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts.
    Anyway I'll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast.

  • Mariel
    (2022-08-09 16:58:52Z)

    You've made some decent points there. I looked
    on the internet to find out more about the issue and found most people will go along with
    your views on this web site.

  • Veola
    (2022-08-09 16:58:54Z)

    You made some good points there. I looked on the net to find out
    more about the issue and found most people
    will go along with your views on this site.

  • best site
    (2022-08-09 17:48:09Z)

    Thanks for finally talking about >A school said it protected student who was killed by ex.
    After admitting missteps, parents feel 'betrayed.'

  • a cool way to improve
    (2022-08-09 18:08:40Z)

    I simply couldn't depart your web site before suggesting
    that I actually enjoyed the standard info a person supply
    for your visitors? Is gonna be back ceaselessly in order to
    inspect new posts

  • a fantastic read
    (2022-08-09 18:15:13Z)

    Good day! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post
    reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this.
    I will forward this write-up to him. Pretty sure he will have
    a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  • Senaida
    (2022-08-09 18:30:21Z)

    Whoa! This blog looks just like my old one! It's on a completely different subject
    but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Wonderful choice of

  • browse around here
    (2022-08-10 03:12:53Z)

    I do not know whether it's just me or if perhaps everyone else experiencing issues with your blog.
    It seems like some of the text in your content are running off the screen. Can someone else
    please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too?
    This may be a issue with my browser because I've had this happen before.

  • Anita
    (2022-08-10 03:14:56Z)

    Hi there, I enjoy reading all of your post. I wanted to write a
    little comment to support you.

  • Isabella
    (2022-08-10 03:16:11Z)

    Does your site have a contact page? I'm having a tough time locating
    it but, I'd like to send you an e-mail. I've got some ideas for your blog you
    might be interested in hearing. Either way, great website and I
    look forward to seeing it improve over time.

  • Naomi
    (2022-08-10 03:16:21Z)

    Its such as you learn my thoughts! You appear to understand
    so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you can do with some percent to power the message home a bit, but
    other than that, that is wonderful blog. An excellent read.
    I'll definitely be back.

  • Wiley
    (2022-08-10 03:28:37Z)

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around
    your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  • Justina
    (2022-08-10 13:27:45Z)

    Very descriptive blog, I liked that bit. Will there be a part 2?

  • Garry
    (2022-08-10 13:35:55Z)

    Hello! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog.
    Is it hard to set up your own blog? I'm not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast.
    I'm thinking about making my own but I'm not sure where to begin.
    Do you have any tips or suggestions? Cheers

  • Norma
    (2022-08-10 13:43:33Z)

    Excellent, what a webpage it is! This website gives
    helpful information to us, keep it up.

  • Kayleigh
    (2022-08-10 13:50:19Z)

    It's a pity you don't have a donate button! I'd definitely donate to this outstanding blog!
    I guess for now i'll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to fresh updates and will talk
    about this site with my Facebook group. Chat

  • Latesha
    (2022-08-10 13:51:49Z)

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as
    though you relied on the video to make your point.

    You definitely know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to
    your site when you could be giving us something informative to read?

  • Venus
    (2022-08-10 14:03:18Z)

    I am curious to find out what blog system you're working with?
    I'm experiencing some minor security issues with my latest blog and I'd like
    to find something more risk-free. Do you have any suggestions?


Top News: US