October 3, 2013
Chemist Tianle Li, 42, has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of murdering her husband, computer-software engineer Xiaoye Wang, 39, using poison during their 2010 divorce battle in Monroe, New Jersey.
Li immigrated from Beijing in the 1990s, met Wang while they were both enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. The couple married in the early 2000s and were expecting their first child in January 2009. When Wang’s father, Ming, came from china to visit in 2009, he kept a journal of his experiences staying with the couple. The police came to the household on multiple occasions on domestic disturbance calls, and once Li apparently told Wang, “I was so sick from bearing your child and now you want a divorce. I will not let you go so easily. I will poison you and burn the house down.”
Li worked for over a decade at bio-pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb in New York. In 2010, Li ordered thallium, also known as “the perfect poison” or “the poisoner’s poison,” through her work, after researching its effects on humans. The radioactive highly-toxic metal substance, previously used in rat poisons and insecticides, has been banned for consumer-use in the U.S. since 1972 as it can be fatal in doses as small as a gram and is difficult to detect even when lab tested. “She was secretly keeping a journal of all his symptoms, wondering when he was going to die. She calculated every aspect of her husband’s murder; not only how to do it, but how to get away with it.” Prosecutor Christie Bavacqua provided evidence in the form of a notebook Li used to log the effects of the poison and where she wrote that she would get away with murder. “She chose to murder her husband rather than allow him to divorce her.”
According to the courtroom testimony, Wang checked into Princeton Medical Center on January 14, 2011, with symptoms of a virus, the same day his divorce from Li was to be finalized. Wang collapsed into a coma, and on January 25, doctors discovered he had been poisoned multiple times in December or January. Wang died the following day before the antidote could take effect. According to defense lawyer Steven Altman, who sought a 30-year sentence, Li was next to Wang when he took his last breath and even changed his bedpan until the very end. She won’t be eligible for parole for 62 years. In her tear-filled statement read in court, Li says she prays for her husband and will appeal the trial verdict.
Wang’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the hospital and Bristol-Myers Squibb on behalf of their four-year-old grandson, claiming that the hospital did not take Wang seriously when he claimed to be poisoned by his wife, and that Squibb should have barred Li’s access to Thallium after a fellow employee obtained a restraining order against her.