Jack Chen made and drank the same cup of hot soda most mornings, but it wasn’t until he was suffering from stomach ulcers and a swollen esophagus that he noticed a “chemical taste.” That’s when he decided to install hidden cameras at his home in Irvine.
Chen, a radiologist, lived in a comfortable home with his wife, dermatologist Yue “Emily” Yu, and their 7- and 8-year-old children.
But Chen was increasingly worried about their 10-year marriage. In court documents filed in a request for a restraining order, he described an abusive and sometimes violent relationship; Yu hit and verbally abused the children and, when the marriage went awry, yelled at them when they spent time with their father, Chen claimed.
Then, on July 11, he said he looked at the hidden camera video to confirm a nagging suspicion.
“I found out that my wife,” the 53-year-old wrote in a court statement, “poisoned me with Drano to try and kill me.”
On August 4, Irvine police searched the couple’s home and arrested 45-year-old Yu after Chen handed over the video, authorities said. The next day, Chen filed for divorce and asked the court for an injunction, including several stills from videos that he says show his wife calmly topping up his morning drink on three separate occasions.
Yu, who has since been released from the county jail on $30,000 bail, denied the allegations and called her husband’s statements through a lawyer defamatory.
Yu “vehemently and unequivocally denies ever attempting to poison her husband or anyone else,” her attorney, David E. Wohl, said in a statement. She “never committed harmful behavior towards anyone, including her family members.”
No criminal charges were filed in the case, but a judge has since issued a restraining order against Yu. A family court hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
In divorce filings, Chen has asked Yu to move out of their home and retain full custody of their children, who he said have “suffered physical, verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of their mother.”
Yu often insulted the children, Chen claimed, calling them “stupid,” “dumb,” or sometimes using a Chinese expression that translates to “go die.” In order to discipline the children, Chen claimed in court, Yu sometimes deprived them of sleep and woke them up when they fell asleep without their permission.
Yu’s attorney accused Chen of making false claims to gain the upper hand in the divorce case.
“We are deeply concerned that these libelous, false allegations were made by Mr. Chen in an attempt to gain an advantage in the divorce and custody case he filed against Ms. Yu the day after her arrest,” Wohl wrote . “Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine anyone believing that Dr. Chen started drinking Drano almost 6 months ago and didn’t find out until last week that he was ingesting a harsh chemical.”
Chen’s attorney Steven Hittelman said his client had had suspicious symptoms since March and had since been diagnosed with two stomach ulcers, gastritis and a swollen esophagus.
According to Chen’s allegations in the family court case, his hidden camera videos show Yu pouring liquid from a bright orange container into Chen’s cup on July 11, 18 and 25.
On July 18, Hittelman said, the video shows Chen preparing his tea, taking a sip and then placing a plastic wrap on top before leaving the room.
According to Chen’s attorney, Yu is then seen retrieving the orange bottle from under the sink, lifting the plastic wrap, pouring some of the bottle’s contents and replacing the wrapper over the cup, according to Chen’s attorney.
“She sits back like nothing happened,” Hittelman said.
A similar sequence occurred on July 25, Hittelman said, but after watching the first video, Chen had stopped drinking the tea.
When Chen reached out to Hittelman and showed him the video, the family law attorney said he “told him he was in the wrong office and told him to go to the Irvine Police Department.”
Wohl, a Riverside-based criminal defense attorney, said neither he nor Yu viewed the videos, but nonetheless challenged the description in Chen’s court statement, saying Yu has been a respected doctor for years and the videos do not show she is doing anything illegal.
“Your goal [has] I’ve always been intent on helping people and never harming them,” Wohl said.
Yu has been a licensed physician and affiliated with Providence Mission Hospital since 2010, according to the California Medical Board.
“Mr. Chen’s claim that my client tried to poison him for months is absolutely not true.”
– David E. Wohl, attorney representing Yue “Emily” Yu
The hospital said in a statement it was aware of the arrest and was cooperating with police, but called the incident a “domestic matter”.
“We want to reassure our community that there has been no impact on our patients,” the statement said.
On Sunday, Yu’s online biography appeared to have been removed from the hospital’s website.
In response to questions from The Times, Wohl also claimed that Chen did not submit the full videos to family court because they would show Yu had done “nothing whatsoever illegal or abusive.”
“He submitted the stills because he included parts of the video that he thought would support his false allegations,” Wohl said. “Mr. Chen’s claim that my client tried to poison him for months is absolutely not true.”
Hittelman said the videos were turned over to a detective and that he only presented stills to the court at the request of the Irvine Police Department and the Orange County Attorney’s Office, both of which are still investigating the case. Submitting the videos to family court would make them public and potentially hamper the investigation.
Chen currently has custody of the two children and has not had any contact with his wife since the day of their arrest, according to Hittelman. Yu called Chen from jail, Hittelman said, and asked him to bail her.
He refuses, said the lawyer.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-15/irvine-man-hidden-camera-wife-drano-allegations Irvine man claims to have video of wife poisoning him