Police in Minquan County, Henan Province, detained a woman suspected of poisoning to death eight people, including seven members of her extended family, ending the clan's nearly 10-year-old misplaced belief that they lived in haunted houses, according to media reports.
At least 20 other family members were injured in the poison attacks that started as early as 1996, the Dahe newspaper reported.
The report said the 39-year-old woman put "dushuqiang," a rat poison, into the victims' drinks. Her motive was reportedly revenge.
The paper identified the 39-year-old villager as Wang Fang, who reportedly confessed to the crimes.
In late 1996, Wang put rat poison into boiled water and told her niece to drink it. The girl died. Wang's reason for killing the girl was that her mother-in-law favored the girl over Wang's daughter.
Two months later, she killed another niece in the same manner because she thought the girl's mother looked down on Wang and her husband.
In 1999, she spiked orange juice with the chemical and made a boy drink it, killing him. The boy's father, also a relative, had quarreled with Wang earlier.
Four other members of the Hu family in Chalou Village, including Wang's parents-in-law, were poisoned to death over similarly trivial matters.
The clan reportedly believed their houses were haunted and which is why they never alerted police.
The newspaper report said police uncovered the serial poisoning link while investigating the death of Wang's lover, a businessman named Huang. Wang put dushuqiang into buns the man ate on June 6. The report said Huang, 57, angered her by failing to keep his promises.
China has imposed a total ban on the use of dushuqiang in 1991. But the absence of any real market supervision means that the poison is still readily available.
Under Chinese law, Wang could receive the death penalty if she is found guilty.
(Shanghai Daily July 27, 2005)