Local News

Autopsy: Chemical mix caused woman's death

Posted April 20, 2010

— An autopsy report released Tuesday shows that a Granville County woman found dead in her car last month died of poisoning.

Oxford Police Chief John Wolford said law enforcement officers found Phillita Harris, 35, sitting alongside a bucket of mixed household chemicals inside her locked car on March 15 behind her home at 107 Hazelwood Court.

The technique, dubbed "detergent suicide," has been widespread in Japan for several years and began showing up in the U.S. in the last year or two, according to media reports.

"The idea that this is a potential method (of suicide) is concerning for everybody,” Wolford said. More than one law enforcement officer opened the car door before authorities determined hazardous chemicals were inside, he said.

Officers secured the scene and called for the Oxford Fire Department to investigate for hazardous material identification. The Raleigh Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Team was called for assistance.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined Harris died of acute thiosulfate poisoning. Thiosulfate results from reaction between a chemical containing sulfur and one containing acid, the autopsy report said.


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  • Griswold Apr 20, 2010

    csplantlover - The story doesn't tell us whether she did this intentionally or not. Can you elaborate, WRAL? Or do you just not know?????

    Just click on the related story link to read the original report:

  • hollylama Apr 20, 2010

    Told ya so!

  • rmsmith Apr 20, 2010

    Fire / Rescue / LEO have been warned about this. Majority of the time these individuals place hazmat signs on the windows instructing not the open the door and call hazmat team. It is rather quick and painless

  • TriangleMommy Apr 20, 2010

    You can accidentally mix two cleaning chemicals in your home and get woozy from the fumes.
    But if someone did this, and put the container in their car, than it is much more intentional.

    (the two chemicals isn't that specific - Ammonia and Bleach can be deadly when mixed)

  • mad_dash Apr 20, 2010

    Wonder if that was painfull.. or did she just "go to sleep"? Just wondering..

  • catalyst74 Apr 20, 2010

    The story doesn't tell us whether she did this intentionally or not. Can you elaborate, WRAL? Or do you just not know?????

    Intentional suicide versus unintentional suicide? It's not like someone wearing a hazmat suit pinned the woman down in the car while the vapors caused her death. There would have been signs of a struggle. The detergent suicide mix is very specific, so I highly doubt she accidentally mixed up the cocktail, set it in her car, locked the doors and took a nap while parked outside her home. The confined space of the car was much easier for the vapors to affect her versus trying it in one of the rooms of her home where there was adequate ventilation and would have required more of the mixture to offset the volume of air.

  • wcumom Apr 20, 2010

    A second grade teacher who went on medical leave back in 3.11.09 Something went very wrong for her to want and give it all up.

  • raggy831 Apr 20, 2010

    Death by suicide should be banned ! Just how do you plan on stopping someone from suicide? If the person wants to do it he or she will do it!

  • Just the facts mam Apr 20, 2010

    Very strange - never heard of that before.....

  • Miss Anthropist Apr 20, 2010

    Death by suicide should be banned !