Tests confirm cyanide in researcher’s handbag

By Martin Finucane
Globe Staff / September 15, 2010

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Tests have confirmed that a Northeastern University researcher who apparently committed suicide had a plastic bag of sodium cyanide in her purse, Worcester County prosecutors said yesterday.

The crystalline substance found at her Milford home in a resealable bag labeled “cyanide’’ was tested Monday by the Department of Public Health, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early’s office said in a statement.

Other evidence suggested that the woman, Emily-Dawn Staupe, 30, who was found dead Sunday, had drunk orange juice with the sodium cyanide mixed in, prosecutors said.

The prosecutors said an investigation had confirmed that Staupe worked at a Northeastern lab and that she would have had access to sodium cyanide in her job. They said they had not proved that she took the substance from the lab, but they had not ruled out that possibility.

The source of the substance is uncertain, but “the strong possibility remains that the substance was accessed by the victim through her employment,’’ prosecutors said.

No areas were found contaminated by the substance and no one else has become ill or showed symptoms consistent with cyanide exposure, prosecutors said.

Northeastern said Monday it was launching a review of the university’s handling of hazardous chemicals after Staupe’s death. Prosecutors said an investigation continues by State Police, Milford police, Northeastern University police, MBTA Transit police, the Department of Public Health, and the office of the chief medical examiner.

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