A 19-year-old former Bible college student from Bensalem
committed suicide Saturday in Indianapolis, police there
Traci R. Johnson was found hanging by a scarf from a bathroom
shower rod in the Lilly Laboratory for Clinical Research, the
Indianapolis Star reported yesterday. She left no note, the
A toxicology test will determine whether drugs played a role.
Johnson had been participating in clinical trials for a drug that
Eli Lilly & Co. hoped to launch this year, the Star
Lilly officials said Monday they did not believe the drug -
duloxetine - was related to Johnson's death. Toxicology test results
are expected in about a month.
Johnson's death "has ripped the heart out of the body of our
church," said the Rev. Joel Barnaby, pastor of the Greater Church of
Philadelphia in Kensington, where Johnson had been a youth leader
for several years.
She was a 2002 graduate of Bensalem High School and lived with
her family in the 2600 block of Finley Avenue in Bensalem, according
to the high school and family friends.
Paul D. Mooney, president of Indiana Bible College in
Indianapolis, which serves the United Pentecostal Church
International, said Johnson was a student for one semester at his
school but dropped out early last month and joined a clinical study
"I would suspect it was" for financial reasons that she dropped
out, Mooney said. "We encouraged her to do both."
Mooney said Johnson was "very perky" and "lived on campus up
until she dropped out [and] was living at the Eli Lilly residence
for people who... are in their program."
Barnaby said that Johnson's father, a machinist, was laid off
about six months ago and that one of her three sisters had to drop
out of school for financial reasons.
Barnaby was furious at the drug firm.
"I am troubled to the core of my spirit that Eli Lilly has taken
such a defensive posture and [has] been so quick to deny any
responsibility" in Johnson's death, "throwing all the blame on this
"All the pathological reports, the toxicity reports, those things
don't come back for weeks. And I am shocked that they have taken
such a deliberate defense to distance themselves from any
David Shaffer, a spokesman for Eli Lilly, said "there is no
circumstance in which we are trying to blame anybody. This is an
incredibly sad thing for everybody involved."
For privacy reasons, Shaffer said he could not identify the
person "who did die on Saturday from an apparent suicide" and who
was found "in a room at the Lilly Laboratory for Clinical
According to an Indianapolis Police Department incident report,
Johnson was pronounced dead at 9 p.m. Saturday at Indiana University
Hospital and was ruled a suicide.
Shaffer said a drug called duloxetine "is being studied as a
treatment for stress, urinary incontinence and depression."
He said the woman in question was "a healthy subject" who "would
have been taking medications as part of the study and we would have
been taking various test results." There are about 100 subjects in
But last week, he said, the woman who committed suicide was on a
placebo. "Her death took place while she was taking sugar pills
rather than duloxetine."
Shaffer did not know how much Lilly was paying Johnson, but he
said that, "typically payments to participants in studies such as
this are in the neighborhood of $150 a day." He declined to state
her weekly income.
At the nondenominational Pentecostal church in Kensington,
Barnaby said the Johnson family commuted three times a week to take
part in the church's work, which he said was "an inner-city
In the neighborhood near Frankford and Allegheny Avenues, which
Barnaby characterized as low-income and high-crime, Johnson and
other young people would gather neighborhood children for meals and
Barnaby said that after graduating from Bible college, Johnson
had expected to return to be an inner-city missionary.
Johnson is survived by her father, Michael; her mother, Margaret;
three sisters, Crystal, Freda and Vicki; and several aunts and
A viewing will be held at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow at the Greater
Church of Philadelphia, 2021 E. Allegheny Ave., followed by the
funeral at 11 a.m. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery in