Uh oh, Spaghetti O's
Thanks to the Hon. Rev. E.B. Webb for sending this inspirational tale of parenting north:
Dad faces poisoning charges
Feds: Kids fed tainted soup in extortion plot
By SAEED AHMED
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A Stockbridge father was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges that he poisoned his children by feeding them soup he had tampered with, in hopes of extorting money from the manufacturer.
Three times, the children — Billy, 3, and Miranda, 18 months — had to be rushed to emergency rooms, with the last incident so serious that they remained hospitalized for a week, family members said.
William Allen Cunningham of Stockbridge allegedly poisoned his children, 3 and 1 1/2, three times.
William Allen Cunningham, 41, then contacted the Campbell Soup Co. blaming them for his children's hospital trips and threatening to sue, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
"This parent allegedly committed a horrific crime," U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said. "In statements to police ... he allegedly said he intended to get money by suing the makers of the soup claiming the product was the cause of the children's sickness."
Never able to hold down a job for too long, Cunningham often was left tending to the children while his wife of about four years worked, family members said.
"I never liked him. He wasn't good with the kids, he lived with his mother and did a whole lot of mainly nothing," said his mother-in-law, Jan Dockery, Thursday evening. "I don't know what [Rhonda] saw in him."
According to the indictment against him, Cunningham first hatched his scheme around Jan. 1 when he prepared a bowl of Campbell's Roasted Beef Tips With Orzo Pasta soup, added a foreign substance to it, and fed it to his son.
Nahmias would not elaborate on what Cunningham supposedly added, saying more information may surface sometime next week during his arraignment.
The boy was taken to the emergency room, where Cunningham told nurses Billy had had some soup and fallen ill, authorities said.
The boy was treated and released.
Fifteen days later, Cunningham prepared another bowl of soup — Campbell's SpaghettiOs Sliced Franks — and after adding another "foreign substance" to it, fed it to Billy and his 18-month-old sister, Miranda, the indictment alleges.
Again, the children were taken to the hospital where a nurse later told authorities that she noticed a smell of lighter fluid, Nahmias said.
"The second trip was very concerning," Dockery, the mother-in-law, said. "Everybody began to have doubts but nobody could prove anything."
Cunningham then contacted Campbell's Pennsylvania offices, claiming that the soup he fed his children was contaminated either by the company or during the manufacturing process.
He told them he intended to sue the company, saying his children had been injured by its product.
Campbell checked with its manufacturing plants and internally to see if any other complaints had been filed about the soup.
It then sent Cunningham material, asking him to send them the packaging on the soup cans so they could investigate further.
Prosecutors said Cunningham instead waited two weeks, and on Jan. 29, prepared a bowl of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup and added the antidepressants Prozac and amitriptyline to it, Nahmias said.
He then fed it to his son.
"His son reacted badly to the soup but rather than stopping and tasting it himself, he actually came and got his daughter and force-fed it to her," Nahmias said.
The girl became so ill that she was airlifted to an Atlanta hospital.
Both children remained hospitalized for a week, prosecutors and family members said.
By this time, Cunningham's wife "clearly had an idea" that something was not right, Nahmias said.
She has not been charged and now has custody of the children.
She did not want to comment Thursday evening.
"It's not been real good on her," her mother said. "How do you handle something like this?"
Cunningham was indicted on three counts of product tampering and one count of making false statements.
He was also charged with wire fraud — because he communicated with Campbell's via telephone — and mail fraud, because he received materials from the soup company as a result of his false claims.
If convicted, Cunningham can face a $1.5 million fine and up to 75 years in prison.