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Berkeley Engineer Charged With Attempting To Poison Colleague

BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- A Lafayette man was arraigned on Tuesday on a premeditated attempted murder charge for allegedly trying to kill a female colleague at a Berkeley engineering firm by putting the toxic metal cadmium into her food and water over a lengthy period in 2017 and 2018.

The victim told police that David Xu, 34, added a harmful substance to her food and water on multiple occasions for more than a year when they both worked at Berkeley Engineering and Research at 808 Gilman St., Berkeley police Sgt. Jennifer Wilson wrote in a probable cause statement.

Berkeley poisoning suspect David Xu
Berkeley poisoning suspect David Xu (Berkeley Police Department)

The woman said she experienced immediate and significant health problems after consuming the food and water and sometimes sought emergency care at a hospital, according to Wilson.

Two of the woman's relatives who drank from her water bottle last November and December also got sick, Wilson wrote.

Water samples taken from the woman's bottle tested positive for a toxic amount of cadmium, according to Wilson.

Investigators also took blood samples from the woman and her relatives and found that all three had elevated levels of cadmium, Wilson wrote. Exposure to cadmium can lead to organ system toxicity, she said.

Xu was arrested on Thursday and was charged with one count of premeditated murder for allegedly trying to kill his colleague and two counts of felony poisoning for allegedly harming her relatives.

Police haven't said what might have motivated Xu to allegedly poison his colleague.

Xu is being held without bail but his attorney Julia Jayne filed a motion asking that his bail be set at $200,000.

Jayne said Xu has no criminal history, isn't a danger to the community, owns a home, is married with two small children and is part of "a loving family and community."

However, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Delia Trevino on Tuesday denied the motion to set Xu's bail at $200,000 and he remains in custody at the Berkeley Jail without bail.

He's scheduled to return to court on Thursday to enter a plea.

According to his resume, Xu obtained his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at the University of California at Berkeley.

Berkeley Engineering and Research wrote on its website that during his studies Xu specialized "in the mechanical behavior of materials, primarily biomedical-compatible materials such as superelastic Nitinol and Cobalt-Chrome alloys."

The company, known as BEAR for short, said Xu's "education and experience in both materials and mechanical engineering gives him a solid foundation in the design and failure analysis of consumer products and industrial equipment."

BEAR also said that Xu was widely quoted in 2013 in connection with the highly-publicized failure of many of the seismic safety bolts that were used to build the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

In a statement on the company's website, Xu said, "Here at BEAR, I am very excited to be part of a great team of experts to help serve all our client needs. With our extensive knowledge in physics, engineering (materials, mechanical and electrical), and experience in testifying, we can solve and explain almost any problem or failure."

Xu's resume said he charged clients $275 an hour for consulting and analysis and $350 an hour for depositions and trial testimony, as he had qualified in state and federal courts as an expert witness.

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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