Engineer slowly poisoned coworker’s food and drinks for 18 months, California cops say

David Xu
David Xu Berkeley Police Department

An employee at a Berkeley, California, engineering company began to notice a strange taste and smell from food or water left in her office starting back in October 2017, KGO reported.

The woman also sometimes became ill and required medical care after eating or drinking, KPIX reported. Two of her relatives also fell ill after drinking from her water bottle, according to the TV station.

Then surveillance videos caught engineer David Xu slipping something into the woman’s water bottle Feb. 11 and March 4, according to Berkeleyside, which broke the story Monday. Tests showed toxic levels of cadmium in the water, police said.

On Thursday, police arrested Xu, 34, of Lafayette, California, on suspicion of premeditated attempted murder resulting in great bodily injury, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Court papers say Xu tried to kill his co-worker by poisoning her with cadmium in her food, drinks and medication over the past 18 months, according to the publication.

“Cadmium (Cd) is a soft, malleable, bluish white metal,” according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Found mostly in zinc ores, cadmium is highly toxic and used in rechargeable batteries, solar panels and nuclear power plants, among other uses, according to OSHA.

Xu, a senior materials engineer, and the woman both work at Berkeley Engineering and Research, Inc., Berkeleyside reported. Berkeley Engineering and Research, Inc., had no comment on the charges, KPIX reported.

Police have not released a motive in the case..

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Blood samples taken from the co-worker, also an engineer, showed “elevated levels of cadmium,” which can cause cancer and death, KPIX reported.

“That’s insane, can’t imagine anyone trying to poison anyone,” said Morgan Davis, Xu’s neighbor, KGO reported.

Xu, who was being held in jail without bail, had a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Berkeleyside reported.

Your kitchen is filled with food safety tools that, when used properly, can keep you and your loved ones healthy. Get tips on how to help prevent food poisoning by proper use of refrigerators, microwaves, cutting boards and more.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.