Deadly thallium poisoning case being investigated by Houghton Police


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HOUGHTON, MI – The Houghton Police Department reports they are continuing their investigation of a woman poisoned to death in December 2015. The victim, Janel Rene Sturzl, a 31-year-old Houghton resident, became ill in October 2015 and sought treatment for her unknown illness at the time.

In late November 2015, Sturzl was transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where it was discovered she had been poisoned with lethal levels of thallium. On December 22, 2015, she died of thallium poisoning.

Sturzl was a former Minnesota resident who moved to Michigan with her family several years ago. She was married to Anthony E. Heathcoat in July 2015. She was a former employee of the Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton and was actively involved in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Thallium is a heavy metal substance that was formerly used in agricultural pest control. It is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Due to misuse, the substance was banned for commercial use in the 1960s. Thallium poisoning cases reported in the United States are extremely rare.

Aside from the current Houghton investigation, investigators were recently made aware of a thallium poisoning case involving a Battle Creek man in August 2016. At this point, the said incident appears to be unrelated.

Houghton Police is actively investigating all leads. They are assisted by the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, Michigan State Police, and FBI. If anyone has any information, they are asked to contact the Houghton Police Department at (906) 487-5912.

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