Barium Homicide? There’s Something You Don’t See Every Day | A Poison Boy Investigation
Barium Homicide? This one almost slipped by me, but reading into the story a little, I couldn’t pass this one up. First of all, “Slaughter Woman” has got to be the best nickname for a super villain since, well, since Poison Boy.
So this woman named Meshell Hale lives in Slaughter which is somewhere in Louisiana and two of the men in her life have met with untimely and unnatural deaths. Her 42-year-old husband’s charred remains were found in his burned-up truck in March 2016 – interestingly, his autopsy revealed that he hadn’t inhaled any smoke before he died which means he was dead before his truck went up in flames. No criminal investigation implicated Slaughter Woman for the death of her husband although she has already collected $10K from the boyfriend’s life insurance policy and is set to inherit $750K in life insurance from her husbands death. Guess they have more pressing things to investigate in Louisiana. Hey – I saw the first season of True Detective!
So, Slaughter Woman’s live-in boyfriend suddenly up and dies at the ripe old age of 41 – presumably of a heart attack. Now I’m no Nancy Drew, but under normal conditions, 41-year-old men don’t drop dead of heart attacks and 42-year-old men don’t just die and then get bar-b-qued sitting in the driver’s seat of their own trucks. UNLESS something fishy is going on .
Oh – coincidentally, both men, in the days preceding their strange deaths, reported abdominal pain and visited the local ER. AND coincidentally, prior to the strange deaths of both men, Slaughter Woman purchased barium (it’s cheap, you can get a pound of it for $4 on Amazon).
So what exactly is barium and how likely is it that barium homicide is a possible scenario down in Creole country? Barium is a silvery-white metal that takes on a silver-yellow color when exposed to air. Barium occurs in nature in many different forms called compounds. These compounds are solids, existing as powders or crystals, and they do not burn well. Two forms of barium, barium sulfate and barium carbonate, are often found in nature as underground ore deposits. Barium is sometimes found naturally in drinking water and food.
Barium sulfate ore is mined and used in several industries. It is used mostly by the oil and gas industries to make drilling muds that keep drill bits lubricated and easier to bore through rock. Barium sulfate is also used to make paints, bricks, tiles, glass, rubber, and other barium compounds. Barium sulfate is sometimes used by doctors to perform medical tests and take x-ray photographs of the stomach and intestines. Some barium compounds, such as barium carbonate, barium chloride, and barium hydroxide, are used to make ceramics, insect and rat poisons, and additives for oils and fuels; in the treatment of boiler water; in the production of barium greases; as a component in sealants, paper manufacturing, and sugar refining; in animal and vegetable oil refining; and in the protection of objects made of limestone from deterioration.
The health effects associated with exposure to different barium compounds depend on whether or not and how well the individual barium compound will dissolve in water or stomach acid. For example, barium sulfate does not easily dissolve in water and causes few harmful health effects. Doctors sometimes give barium sulfate orally or by placing it directly in the rectum of patients for purposes of making x-rays of the stomach or intestines. The use of this particular barium compound in this type of medical test is not harmful to people. Barium compounds such as barium acetate, barium chloride, barium hydroxide, barium nitrate, and barium sulfide that dissolve in water can cause harmful health effects. Barium carbonate does not dissolve in water, but does dissolve in the stomach; it can also cause harmful health effects.
Eating or drinking very large amounts of barium compounds that dissolve in water or in the stomach can cause cardiac dysrhythmia and even arrhythymia (absence of heart rhythm – never a good thing) although it isn’t entirely clear exactly how that happens. Some people who eat or drink somewhat smaller amounts of barium for a short period may experience vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, difficulties in breathing, increased or decreased blood pressure, numbness around the face, and muscle weakness.
My guess is that both of the men in Slaughter Woman’s life complained of all of the above while they were hospitalized and both died from cardiac arrest related to barium homicide.