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City of Hope Scientist Accused of Death Threats

Crime: Researcher allegedly told a witness he was planning to kill his supervisor and two colleagues.

November 27, 2001|LAURA LOH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A research scientist at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte has been charged with making death threats against his supervisor and two colleagues.

Thomas William Balon, 49, allegedly told a fellow scientist on Nov. 1 that he was planning to kill the three men, authorities said.

The threats allegedly were made at a research facility on the 114-acre campus of City of Hope, a nationally prominent research and treatment center.

Balon, who has worked for City of Hope since 1992, is an associate research scientist in the center's department of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism.

He was arrested Nov. 19 at the medical center by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies who arrived at the request of hospital officials to take a report on the alleged threats, said Sheriff's Det. Darren Williams.

Williams said Balon may have been frustrated about a "lack of recognition" his work was getting at City of Hope. "He didn't admit the threats, but he admitted the frustration" during a jail interview, Williams said.

City of Hope obtained a temporary restraining order against Balon after his arrest. Hospital officials declined to publicly discuss the case.

Balon pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three felony counts of making criminal threats. He posted a $75,000 bond and was released Thursday. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.

According to the scientist to whom Balon confided his plans, Balon talked about a Nov. 1, 1991, shooting at the University of Iowa during his tenure there as an assistant professor in which a student killed four people and then committed suicide.

"I'm going to tell you something that's going to make it hard for you to sleep at night: Do you know what 10-year anniversary this is?" Balon told the witness, according to a Sheriff's Department report.

Balon then named the colleagues he planned to kill, saying: "I'm going to put a bullet in [their] heads," the report states.

He added: "I found my gun in the garage. It's not loaded, but the bullets are right next to it. It still works," according to the report.

The witness delayed reporting the incident to authorities "out of fear and uncertainty about how authentic the threats were," Williams said.

Sheriff's investigators said they obtained Balon's permission to search his Covina home shortly after his arrest and seized a BB gun from the garage.

The witness also said Balon has a history of anger management problems and previously threatened another supervisor, according to the report.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John Perlstein said he was able to file the case based on the conversation Balon had with the witness.

Balon "works with all the parties, so it was a natural . . . [assumption] that the threat would be communicated to them," Perlstein said.

Reached by phone at home, Balon declined to discuss the allegations against him.

"I'm a very private person who is 100% scientist," he said. "My only passion in life besides a 12-year-old daughter is working on what causes a disease and how to cure it."

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