Newspaper owner poisoned with thallium, a tasteless, odorless heavy metal formerly used in rat poison

A co-owner of the Prescott newspaper the Daily Courier said he was poisoned with thallium, a tasteless, odorless heavy metal formerly used in rat poison.

Joseph Soldwedel’s account was published in a Courier article last week. He said he was going public to address rumors in the Yavapai County community.

Though it is unclear whether Soldwedel was poisoned intentionally, Prescott police said they are investigating the situation as a criminal matter. No arrests have been made, and Officer Dave Fuller declined to comment on possible suspects.

But Soldwedel told his newspaper that he has a “good idea” who may have poisoned him. He declined to air his suspicions until the police and prosecutors finish their review, but he said neither his son, daughter nor sister was involved.

‘Elevated levels’ of poison reported

Soldwedel declined to speak to The Arizona Republic and referred questions to his attorney, Norman Katz. The attorney also remained tight-lipped about the investigation and declined to comment on his client’s symptoms or the timeline of the alleged poisoning.

At some point in the past year, Soldwedel enlisted the expertise of  Dr. Ernest P. Chiodo, a Michigan-based physician who specializes in forensic toxicology.

Chiodo told The Republic that Soldwedel had “elevated levels” of the chemical in his system and noted that its existence couldn’t be explained by environmental issues. Soldwedel’s water was tested and came back clean, and his career in the media industry doesn’t lend itself to accidental poisoning.

Some people who work in electronics, mining or at cement plants may be more susceptible to exposure, Chiodo said.

The Courier reported lab results indicated that between Nov. 29 and Dec. 27, 2016, thallium levels in Soldwedel’s body were 15 times higher than that of an average person. The report noted that additional toxic chemicals — including lithium, aluminum, barium and zinc — were found in his system.

Katz declined to provide The Republic a copy of the lab results.

“The question is, what is causing him to have elevated thallium levels?” Chiodo said. “I do not know that he’s been intentionally poisoned, and I don’t know who would be doing it, but based on my findings, the police should look into it.”

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