MONROE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS 2) — Did a bad divorce end in murder?
The woman accused of killing her estranged husband with a chemical used to kill rats said she didn’t do it.
Investigators said the crime might have gone unnoticed if not for a quick-thinking nurse.
Tianle Li, 40, is accused of murder in the home she shared with her husband, 39-year-old Xiaoye Wang, and the couple’s 2-year-old son. Li, a chemist at Bristol-Myers Squibb, allegedly used thallium to poison Wang.
The Monroe Township chemist stood calmly in court on Wednesday as the judge spelled out the charges against her, which include first-degree murder, reports CBS 2′s Christine Sloan.
“That’s causing the death of Mr. Wang,” Judge Michael Toto said. “That’s murder by poisoning.”
“It’s our allegation that she administered a lethal and massive dose of thallium to the victim and caused his death,” assistant prosecutor Nicholas Seawitch said.
Li’s attorney, Stephen Altman, said his client is innocent.
“At this point, I have to address the bail, $4 million in a murder case – I think it’s excessive considering bail guidelines,” he said.
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.
Prosecutors say it was a nurse who thought of testing for the metal, remembering a thallium poisoning case in China.
“Ultimately suspected thallium poisoning, they tested for it, and found it,” Seawitch said. “By the time that it was discovered, it was really too late to treat him.”
“It’s terrible. They had a little kid there, and it’s just terrible what happened,” neighbor Marie Bono told CBS 2′s Sean Hennessey.
Neighbors said that police were called to the home very often and sometimes even more than once a week.
Residents on the upscale Monroe Township street said they didn’t know the couple well, but couldn’t help but notice their rocky marriage.
“Sometimes the window is open. You hear the fighting and the wife’s voice was louder than the husband’s voice,” Prakash Patel said.
Investigators said Li initially lied to them, but neighbors wondered - given all the times police came to the home - how she expected to ever get away with it.
“You would think that doing something pre-planned like this and something where they can find out and connect the dots, I don’t know that it was really well thought out for her to do something like that. She had an opportunity to leave,” Hisham Zahran said.
Li is being held on murder charges and her bail has been set at more than $4 million. The couple’s two-year-old son has been placed in foster care until Li’s family arrives from China.
Prosecutors said they are doing more toxicology tests on Wang that could give them more clues on how the poison was administered.
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