San Diego Man Claims Anti- Smoking Drug Made Him Kill Ex-Wife

By Shawn Dwyer 04/22/14

Tim Danielson said that Chantix plunged him into depression weeks before he shot ex-wife Ming Qi several times and then tried to kill himself.

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In 2011, Tim Danielson, 65, shot and killed his ex-wife, Ming Qi, 48, in a fit of rage. Now he is claiming that the anti-smoking drug, Chantix, is to blame.

At the time of the murder, Danielson and Qi were living together in Lakeside, Calif. despite having been divorced since 2008. Qi had moved back in due to financial difficulties, but had been seeing another man and allegedly flaunted the affair in front of her ex-husband. That led to numerous heated arguments in the weeks leading up to her death on the night of June 13.

Qi had made the decision to move out and confronted Danielson, who allegedly became enraged enough to retrieve a .22 caliber rifle. He shot her six times, including once in the head, before carrying her to their upstairs bedroom, where he turned on a generator in order to kill himself by carbon monoxide poisoning. He emailed a sister-in-law describing what he had done and was found near death by police.

Danielson has been incarcerated since the incident, but it has only recently come to light that his lawyers will argue that Qi’s murder was caused by Chantix. Manufactured by Pfizer, the anti-smoking drug carries the FDA’s strongest warnings over its side effects, which include depression, suicidal thoughts, aggression, and suicidal action.

He pleaded not guilty in 2011 and has been awaiting trial ever since. Jury selection begins Wednesday. But he faces an uphill battle using a diminished capacity defense in California, since the state has abolished such maneuvers after the infamous Twinkie defense during the trial of Dan White, the San Francisco city supervisor who assassinated fellow supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

But criminal defense attorney, Jan Ronis, told a local news station that there might be a way for Danielson’s attorney to argue that his client was mentally incapacitated. “Previously, it was called diminished capacity, now it's called diminished actuality,” he said. “It's a murky area of law that still provides somewhat of a defense.”

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.