Thallium poisoning

Thallium, for him.

A New Jersey woman is being held on murder charges in the death of her husband. Tianle Li, a 40-year-old chemist who worked for the pharmaceutical company, Bristol Myers Squibb, allegedly used Thallium to poison her husband, Xiaove Wang. The couple were in the midst of a nasty divorce.  

Investigators said Li gave her husband the highly toxic chemical in December and early January. Believing he was sick with the flu, Wang left home and checked himself into a hospital. Less than two weeks later, he died.

Li’s bail is set at more than $4 million.

Thallium was discovered by Sir William Crookes, an English chemist, in 1861. Crooks had obtained the sludge left over from the production of sulfuric acid. After removing all of the selenium from the sludge, he inspected it with a device known as a spectroscope to look for signs of tellurium. Instead he observed a bright green line that no one had ever seen before. Today Thallium is used in conjunction with cardiac stress tests.

But more importantly, I want to know how Li thought she was going to get away with this. First, the couple is involved in a nasty divorce and both members are living in the house. If you’ve seen the movie, The War of the Roses, you know that when the husband and the wife both want the house, it’s vital that they remain in the house. However, two incompatible people residing under one roof can lead to some fierce fighting. If Li was poisoning her husband, why did she let him go to the hospital? You know they’re going to run tests? I’m no CSI fan but hello, Li, what were you thinking? If you’re going to poison your spouse, you have to be clever. Li is a chemist. Once they found traces of thallium in  her husband’s blood it would be easy to trace it back to her.

My favorite case of marital discord that led to partner poisoning was the true story of a Texan plastic surgeon, Dr. John Hill. In the 1981 made for TV movie, Murder in Texas, John Hill, played by Sam Elliott, came from a middle class family. In the late 50s, he attended medical school in Houston and met, Joan Robinson, played by the amazing, Farrah Fawcett, a beautiful blond equestrian in her mid 20s.

John and Joan married, had 1 child, and all appeared well for 10 years. After developing a lucrative plastic surgery practice, Dr. Hill became entangled with a divorcee named, Ann Kurth, played by Katherine Ross, the real life wife of Sam Elliott (Now if you’re thinking I know too much television trivia; you’re absolutely right).

In March of 1969, the otherwise healthy and athletic Joan Hill became deathly ill. Now listen up Li, according to some accounts Dr. Hill basically ignored his wife’s failing health until it was too late to save her. Now widowed, John married his mistress. Meanwhile, John’s father-in-law, Ash Robinson, played by Andy Griffith, was convinced his son-in-law was responsible for his daughter’s death and made it his full-time job to prove John’s guilt.

Now for the interesting part, early toxicology reports from Joan’s autopsy pointed to toxic shock syndrome as the cause of death. In the made for TV movie, John is shown feeding his wife French pastries laced with cultures grown from her own fecal material. Flawless when you think about it. John poisoned his wife using her own excrement. He fed her eclairs stuffed with cream mixed with cultures grown from her feces. Now if that is not the best, most resourceful way to use your medical education to murder your partner than I don’t know what is. I certainly know you don’t bring home Thallium from work and poison your husband. Thallium is traceable Li; feces, not so much.



  1. Posted February 9, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    You neglected to tell us how Ash figured out the fecal matter 🙂

  2. spinellimd
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    You’ll just have to rent the movie.

  3. Posted February 18, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    So here’s the whole point about « Eat shit and die » 😛

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