The attorneys for the doctor whose wife has accused him of poisoning her coffee denied the allegations Wednesday afternoon.
Liesa Hill, a pharmacist, filed an order of protection Friday against her husband, Dr. Hal Hill. She said she suspected he was poisoning her coffee and causing her to be ill. Lab results confirmed last week that a sample of coffee Liesa Hill gave investigators contained high levels of barium.
The firm Davis & Hoss is representing Hal Hill, attorney Lee Davis said. He cautioned against drawing conclusions before the investigation into Liesa Hill's allegations is complete.
"We strongly deny any allegations of wrong-doing or misconduct toward his wife," he said. "I expect there will be a full investigation, and I hope that nobody will rush to any conclusions."
No charges have been filed in the case, which is being handled by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and Lookout Mountain police. Lookout Mountain Police Chief Randall Bowden did not return a request to comment Wednesday evening.
"I think law enforcement and the community are aware of how a hasty, media-fueled investigation can sometimes lead to an unfair and wrong conclusion," Davis said in a statement.
Davis pointed out that Hal Hill was not represented in court when the judge signed the order of protection Friday.
"A judge signed an ex parte protective order, which means one side has been represented," he said. "There will be a hearing at a future date when both sides are in court and represented by counsel."
Liesa Hill's attorneys did not return messages left on their cellphones Wednesday night.
The case also was discussed Wednesday night on the Nancy Grace show on HLN-TV.
Barium is a heavy metal that comes in many forms, said Dr. John Benitez, director of the Tennessee Poison Center. Not all forms are toxic.
"You can get barium chloride, barium sulfate; there's just too many to name," he said.
Some types of barium are used in the textile, rubber, plastic and electronic industries. Barium sulfate is used for medical imaging procedures like X-rays, Benitez said.
"It's how we do X-rays of the gastrointestinal system," he said. "People swallow this, and that is how we can tell what the gastro-intestinal system lining looks like. It's not poisonous in that case because the body doesn't absorb it."
The types of barium that are poisonous are soluble, so they can be absorbed by the body, Benitez said. He said that ingesting soluble barium would cause symptoms like muscle cramping and eventually could lead to death.
"Eventually you get enough of it over time. If you got too much, it's possible you'd get to the point where you'd get paralysis, muscle cramping and heart would stop," he said.
He said barium is not impossible to find, but it's not widely available either.
"It's not that commonly available," he said. "In the hospitals there is some, but it is usually that barium sulfate kind. The other stuff is used primarily in industry. So a person might take some from work or order it through a chemical supply company."
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...