Local News

Autopsy: Chemical mix caused woman's death

Posted April 20, 2010 11:02 a.m. EDT
Updated April 20, 2010 11:45 a.m. EDT

— 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.