Somebody Gave Him the 'Poisoner's Poison'—Twice

Oregon's Joe Gilliam, a prominent political player, is in a vegetative state
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 14, 2021 6:45 PM CST
He Got Poisoned, Twice, and Police Fear a Third Strike
Stock photo. Authorities say somebody poisoned Joe Gilliam with the 'poisoner's poison,' thallium.   (Getty/barbol88)

(Newser) – Joe Gilliam has been a force in Oregon state politics for more than two decades as head of the influential Northwest Grocery Association. Or at least he had been until recently. For the better part of the last year, the 59-year-old has been in a vegetative state at an undisclosed medical facility in Washington state, writes Nigel Jaquiss at Willamette Week. The reason for his coma? Authorities say somebody poisoned him in June 2020 with the lethal toxin thallium—known as the "poisoner's poison"—then gave him another dose in November when the first failed to kill him. The reason his medical facility is undisclosed? Authorities fear the still-unidentified poisoner will attempt to finish the job. The story digs into the case, sussing out possible motives and providing details on the two men who have been identified as suspects—one of them being Gilliam's son.

While the elder Gilliam made plenty of political enemies over the years given the nature of his job, ex-wife Lisa Gilliam thinks the motive lies elsewhere. "I don’t think this was about politics," she says. "Joe’s poisoning was a very personal crime." Police seem to agree. One suspect is Ronald Smith, a 68-year-old who had a falling out with Gilliam over a financial deal involving a home purchased in in Arizona. The other is 32-year-old Joey Gilliam, the victim's only son, who has come under suspicion after withdrawing big sums of money from his father's account once he became incapacitated. The younger Gilliam won't talk about the money, but he adamantly denies poisoning his father. "Until they solve it, everybody should be a suspect," he says. "But I had nothing to do with it." (Read the full story, which suggests that the elder Gilliam will never recover.)

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