Arizona Publisher Wields Newspaper Against Wife in Batshit Crazy Divorce Case

Photo: Matt York (AP Photo)

Rat poison, meth, attack ads, and an $18 million lawsuit are all at the center of an absolutely bonkers divorce case out of Arizona.

Joseph Soldwedel, a publisher of 13 Arizona newspapers, is currently suing his soon-to-be ex-wife Felice Magana, claiming she tried to poison him, according to the Associated Press. Magana denies the allegation, saying the $18 million lawsuit Soldwedel filed against her is nothing more than retaliation for her seeking a divorce after eight years of marriage.

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The background here, according to Soldwedel, is that he started to experience flu-like symptoms in 2016. Curious about why the symptoms weren’t going away, he sent some hair and nail samples to a lab in Colorado. The lab’s general manager confirmed to the AP that the dose of thallium‚ a heavy metal used in old rat poison, was found to be six-to-15 times higher than it should’ve been. Soldwedel took this to the Prescott Police Department, who investigated and found no evidence that Magana had been poisoning him. When they retested the the DNA he sent to the Colorado, they found meth, which Soldwedel then claimed was placed in his food and shampoo by Magana.

In April 2017, Magana filed for divorce, claiming Soldwedel was stalking her. This resulted in Soldwedel pleading guilty to aggravated harassment and criminal damage.

Somehow, it only gets much worse and much wilder from here.

Ideally, the publisher of a newspaper would have little hands-on dealings with the day-to-day editorial decisions made by the newspaper’s reporters. Soldwedel, however, is not here for your journalistic norms. Rather, he saw the papers as weapons at his disposal to wield against the woman he was convinced had been slipping him rat poison. Or meth. Or something.

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One of the papers owned by the newspaper empire built by Soldwedel’s father, the Prescott Daily Courier, published three separate stories about his allegations over the past year, per the AP (some of the stories are behind a paywall). Joseph didn’t stop there, though—he also had the newspaper run an ad that called Felice out by name, featuring a photo of her surrounded by skulls and rats and offering a $10,000 reward. Not once did reporters reach out to Magana for her side of the story, though an edition of the paper sporting the ad somehow made its way to her driveway last December. Soldwedel told the AP that not all the reporters were “on board 100 percent,” but that he eventually said, “‘OK. I do have ultimate authority.’

Such behavior is—among a million other far more important characterizations, like being a creepy and vindictive harasser of an ex-husband—Bad Journalism! Don’t do this!

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