Brooklyn Boy and His Grandma Died Months Apart From Poisoning, Police Now Investigating, Authorities Say

Grandmother and grandson poisoned in Brooklyn.
Both victims became ill at this Brooklyn, New York, apartment complex, police said.Google Maps

The New York Police Department and the Medical Examiner's Office are probing the deaths of a grandmother and her grandson, who both died from poison, authorities said.

The deaths of a 4-year-old Brooklyn boy and his grandmother were caused by poisoning, the New York Police Department and the medical examiner's office have announced.

Wilhelm Ducatl died last May 26 after complaining of severe stomach pain, police said. Summoned to a Brooklyn apartment, paramedics transferred the child to Maimonides Hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition. He died two days later.

His death came three months after his grandmother, Tofoon Man, 63, became ill at the same apartment and was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital of Brooklyn. She died on Feb. 17.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ordered her body exhumed after her grandson's cause of death was determined to be poisoning, authorities said.

An autopsy determined that she, too, had died from acute thallium poisoning, officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists thallium as a soft, heavy metal that was discovered in 1861. Tasteless and odorless, thallium "has been used by murderers as a difficult-to-detect poison," according to the CDC website.

Historically, it was used in rodent poison and hair-removal products, but thallium has not been produced in the U.S. since 1984 and has been banned for those uses because of toxic exposure, the federal agency said. 

It is still imported for use in electronics, low temperature thermometers, optical lenses and imitation precious jewels, the CDC said.

The medical examiner ruled both deaths homicides and the joint investigation into how the boy and his grandmother came to be poisoned was announced this month.

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