More than two years after somebody tried—twice—to kill Joe Gilliam by poisoning him with the toxic metal thallium, the investigation of that crime, which authorities believe happened in Cave Creek, Ariz., appears to have hit a wall.
Gilliam, who led the Northwest Grocery Association for 20 years before his poisoning (“Who Poisoned Joe Gilliam…Twice?” WW, Nov. 3, 2021), remains in a long-term care facility in Clark County, Wash., unable to feed or care for himself. Prosecutors charged his only son, Earl Joe “Joey” Gilliam III, in August with a slew of felonies for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his father after he was poisoned. But no suspect in the poisoning has been identified.
Last week, Felicia Gilliam Capps, 70, Joe’s older sister and his court-appointed guardian, gave her first on-the-record interview about her brother and the faltering investigation into his case.
WW: How’s Joe doing?
Felicia Gilliam Capps: He’s not in a coma. But he still is incapacitated as far as doing anything for himself. He’s on a feeding tube, and about a month ago, he was having some breathing problems and they had to put him back on a ventilator. They’re still running tests to see what caused that.
He does respond to me when he sees me. He responds to Olivia [his daughter] when she comes to visit. He will look in my direction that he hears my voice. He doesn’t speak but he can indicate “yes” or “no” answers to questions with a thumbs up or down.
At this point, who is allowed to see Joe?
Well, family, except Joey is not allowed because of an email he sent out [suggesting Joe be taken off life support]. I had to get a protective order because of that.
But Joe’s girlfriend Christina Marini is not allowed to see him, is that correct?
That’s correct. Christina and Ron Smith and Tim Mooney were the three people that are on the list in Arizona of investigative leads because they were the three people that seemed to be present when Joe was poisoned.
Who do you think poisoned him?
I don’t know who did it. I don’t know what they [Marini, Smith and Mooney] know. None of them have come forward with any information.
In January, you gave the FBI permission to test Joe’s hair for thallium, and Olivia also got tested. Do you finally have the results?
Not from the FBI, but [Maricopa County Sheriff’s] Detective [Tyler] Thompson let me know last Monday that the results had come back negative.
What’s the implication of that?
Olivia had been fearful that she had been poisoned with thallium. She wasn’t. To me, it means the investigation needed to go a different direction because Olivia had thought that maybe Christina had poisoned her and Joe. It would appear that that’s not what happened. And Christina was the only person that Thompson was really looking at.
He told me that the case is going cold and they’ll close it. He said it’s just not solvable. [Sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Monica Bretado disputes that conclusion. “Per the detective, this case has not been closed,” Bretado says. “This is still an open and active case at this time.” ]
What did you say to that?
I was arguing. I wanted him to follow some other avenues. And he said, “I’m not going to, it’s not going to happen.” In that conversation, he took all my hope away of getting this solved. It left me very devastated, very devastated.
Did you feel the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had adequately investigated all possible leads?
No, I did not. But Thompson said it’s just not solvable. And I said, well, I can’t accept that. We went round and round. That’s how it ended.
Your brother is on a ventilator and feeding tube, and your nephew stands charged with serious felonies. How does that feel?
I feel so sad. I hardly can think about anything, but who did this to Joe? Why did they do it? I want to find out. And I’m sad about Joey. I wished he hadn’t done what he did. I’ve known him and his dad since they were babies and I’ve loved them. It’s very disappointing. I’ve just had a lot of hurt and disappointment from all of it. It has obsessed my thoughts.