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Investigators Mum On Report Cyanide Was in Home as Well as in Yogurt

January 8, 1989

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ Investigators would not comment Sunday on a report that cyanide was found at the home of a teen-ager who has been in a coma since eating yogurt laced with poison.

Camden County Prosecutor Samuel Asbell and FBI officials in Newark would not comment on a story in Saturday’s Courier-Post of Cherry Hill that quoted unidentified sources as saying cyanide was found in the Haddonfield home of Thomas Lee, 17, and the laboratory used by his father, Professor Hsin-yi Lee.

The newspaper reported that the FBI and other investigators with search warrants found the cyanide Thursday. Professor Lee is chairman of the biology department at the Camden campus of Rutgers, the state university.

It was not clear whether the cyanide found in the home and laboratory were of the same origin, nor whether either sample was the same form of the chemical ingested by the boy, the newspaper reported.

Asbell’s spokesman, George Kerns, repeated on Sunday that attempted suicide was one of three possibilities investigators were exploring. The others are tampering and attempted homicide.

Asbell said Saturday that one reason authorities included suicide as a possibility was that the cyanide was placed on the top of the yogurt rather than mixed into the product.

On Sunday, Kerns would not elaborate on any aspect of the case.

″The emphasis in the beginning was on tampering ... it’s a wide open field″ now, he said.

An FBI official who refused to give his name on Sunday referred all questions to the agency’s media coordinator, Drucilla Wells, who will be available Monday, he said.

Lee remained in a coma and on life support equipment Sunday at West Jersey Hospital-Voorhees, a nursing supervisor said.

He became ill after eating about one-third of an 8-ounce container of Breyers black cherry yogurt while in a friend’s car on the way to school Tuesday, authorities say.

Tests of other cups of yogurt from the same batch showed no cyanide, and investigators have ruled out tampering during the manufacturing process.

No visible evidence of tampering could be found in the cup, lid or safety seal, officials said.

No one answered the telephone at the Lee residence Sunday.

Attempts to reach Dr. Robert Nagele, a Lee family friend and unofficial spokesman for the family, were unsuccessful. Nagele’s phone line registered a busy signal throughout the day.

Meanwhile, Kraft Inc. Dairy Group, which makes Breyers brand yogurt, had restored most of the goods that had been removed from store shelves in New York, New Jersey, Wilmington, Del., and five eastern Pennsylvania counties, said Kathy Knuth, a company spokeswoman.

″You’re talking about so many stores it’s difficult to say, but we’re in the process″ of restocking shelves, Ms. Knuth said.

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