Tianle Li, N.J. chemist, convicted of fatally poisoning husband

Tianle Li
CBS New York
Tianle Li
CBS New York

(CBS/AP) NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - A chemist accused of fatally poisoning her estranged husband with a toxic metal she got at work was convicted Tuesday of murder.

Tianle Li, a former employee of New York City-based bio-pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb, was found guilty by a jury of hindering prosecution. Li, 43, will be sentenced to 30 years to life in prison when she returns to court in September, prosecutors said.

Li killed Xiaoye Wang, a computer software engineer, while they were divorcing by giving him thallium, a tasteless, odorless poison, which she ordered through work in 2010. The heavy metal, which has been used in rat poison but is banned from consumer use in the United States, can be fatal in tiny doses and is difficult to detect in lab tests.

The government accused Li of slipping the chemical into her husband's food in the weeks before he died on Jan. 26, 2011, because she didn't want the divorce.

Wang, 39, admitted himself to a hospital in Princeton, N.J. on Jan. 14, 2011, the day their divorce was to be finalized. He complained of abdominal pain and numbness in his hands and feet.

When Wang's condition worsened, the hospital began conducting routine tests but didn't suspect thallium until a nurse recalled a case in China involving thallium poisoning in the 1990's.

Tests completed the day before he died determined that he, in fact, had been poisoned with thallium.

Li's lawyer said there was no proof she had poisoned her husband. Li's denial that she had obtained thallium through her job led to the conviction.

Wang, who was from China, met his future wife while earning a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania. They lived in the central New Jersey town of Monroe and had a young son.

The couple had reportedly been involved in a series of domestic disturbances starting in early 2009.

Complete coverage of New Jersey thallium poisoning on Crimesider