Officials: Poison used in attempted murder was liquid nicotine

Officials say they have more details on the toxic substance a man reportedly used in an attempt to murder his ex-wife last year in Roseville, Minnesota.

According to the criminal complaint, Thorbjorn Vadnais Koyen MacBain is charged with attempted murder and assault after police say he exposed his wife to a toxic chemical. Experts initially believed the substance to have been an organophosphate such as pesticides and nerve agents like Sarin that can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

However, after more testing of the victim's urine, officials found "an extremely high amount of cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine."

A laboratory scientist found that the sample contained an amount of cotinine which was "roughly 10 times higher than what he would expect to see in a heavy smoker." The victim, however, does not smoke and neither does anyone in her household. 

The doctor treating the victim also said he wasn't surprised to learn it was liquid nicotine poisoning, as the symptoms are very similar to those from organophosphate poisoning.

According to the complaint, the two met up for a custody visitation meeting at Central Park in Roseville back in September. MacBain was playing with squirt guns while his ex sat nearby on a park bench. The victim told police she stayed at the park because she didn't trust MacBain to return with the kids after the visitation.

During the meeting, MacBain went into the bathroom. When he came out, he told officers he squirted her with the water gun. However, the victim told officers MacBain actually poured a liquid onto her from a bottle. She said the liquid didn't feel or smell like water. She licked the liquid from her hand to determine what it was and said it had a spicy flavor.

Police say one of the children was nearby when his mother was splashed and reported the liquid seemed sticky and he developed a taste in his mouth like pepper. Officers say the other child was also splashed slightly with the liquid but neither child developed serious symptoms as a result.

MacBain's ex-wife, however, started feeling sick immediately. She quickly had a reaction and felt like she was going to lose consciousness. Police say MacBain tried to leave but couldn't because the children had taken his backpack. His wife tried to call 911 but was unable to speak. MacBain ended up calling 911 but claimed she was having a panic attack.

Before and after the 911 call, the children told police that MacBain appeared to be unconcerned about his ex's medical episode but sounded concerned while on the phone with operators.

At the hospital, the victim's condition worsened and a specialist doctor said she showed symptoms of being poisoned with an organophosphate.

The victim later told police that MacBain had talked about poisons in the past, and at points believed his father and others had tried to poison him.

MacBain was arrested while leaving his apartment for a walk with his current girlfriend. After being told she couldn't return to the apartment while a search warrant was being prepared, police say MacBain's girlfriend asked why and told police, "There are no chemicals or bombs" inside the apartment.