Cyanide suicide claimed USF researcher, police say
TAMPA – Police have identified the woman who apparently committed suicide in a Temple Terrace hotel Monday night as a University of South Florida researcher, and officers say cyanide was found in her hotel room.
Chitra Chauhan, 33, worked at the Global Health Laboratory at USF, police say. She was found to be in cardiac arrest when emergency workers were called to the Extended StayAmerica on Morris Bridge Road around 8:15 p.m.
Hotel guest James Rogers said Monday night’s apparent suicide by cyanide affected more than just the victim.
“It’s a terrible thing that happened to that lady, but she was trying to take other people out with her in my eyes,” Rogers said.
He and other hotel guests were evacuated from a Temple Terrace Extended Stay America hotel Monday because of the cyanide scare.
Investigators say Dr. Chitra Chauhan killed herself using the deadly chemical.
“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection came out later that night and did determine that it was cyanide,” said Michael Dunn of the Temple Terrace Police Department.
No hotel guests were injured, but there was some initial concern over the first responders on the scene.
“They were fine, nobody showed any exposure to anything,” Dunn said.
Dr. Chauhan was a molecular biologist doing research on global health at USF. The university says she was not using the chemical as part of her research on campus.
They wouldn’t speculate how she got the cyanide, but released a statement saying: “USF is currently reviewing how she obtained this chemical.”
They’re not the only ones looking into it.
“The detectives are checking that out, and I’m sure they’ve spoken to the folks at USF,” Dunn said.
Back at the hotel, guests talked about their experience.
“It was pretty scary, guys walking around in Hazmat suits,” said guest Arthur McDonnell. “We sat out here outside till about 4:30 in the morning.”
And although it was a cold and confusing night, McDonnell says he appreciates the work of investigators.
“They just didn’t want to jeopardize anybody else’s life, and that I understand,” he said.