- Stanford offers grief counseling for students, faculty
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News

May Zhou's body found in her
car's trunk -- possible suicide

 

The body found inside the trunk of a car at Santa Rosa Junior College Thursday morning is that of Mengyao "May" Zhou, according to Santa Rosa police.

Additionally, items found in the trunk of the car owned by the missing 23-year-old Stanford University graduate student "indicate the subject may have committed suicide," according to Santa Rosa police Sgt. Lisa Banayat.

"The Stanford community is deeply saddened to learn of May's death," Greg Boardman, vice provost for student affairs, said. "We continue to offer our full support and prayers to the Zhou family."

An autopsy is scheduled for Friday, according to the Sonoma County coroner's office.

Santa Rosa Police Lt. Ed Hemphill confirmed Thursday morning that Zhou's car was found about 7 a.m. with a body in its trunk, parked at the junior college's planetarium parking lot. The car was towed to a undisclosed location, where her body was discovered.

The family was notified Thursday afternoon, police said. Her cell phone, credit cards and e-mail service have not been used since her disappearance, police reported.

Zhou's father early Thursday afternoon said police had not contacted him about the discovery.

"It's easy to guess" whose body it is, he told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

"There are no early indications of foul play," Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Lisa Banayat told the Press Democrat.

Zhou, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, told her roommate she was going to run errands before leaving her apartment in Stanford's Rains Houses around 10:30 a.m. Jan. 20. The roommate reported her missing Sunday evening.

Zhou's father said he last spoke with his daughter around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 17. The two talked about putting together a resume for Zhou, who wanted to apply for summer internships.

"She wanted to go ahead with her career," he said.

Bruce Wooley, chairman for the university's Department of Electrical Engineering, said Zhou was an outstanding student in her second year of the Ph.D. program. She received the prestigious Stanford Graduate Fellowships Program in Science and Engineering, awarded to only 100 students each year.

"This week is the qualifying exams (for Ph.D. candidacy), so a lot of students are under a lot of stress," Wooley said. "But she took them last year and did great."

Wooley, who has been department chair for eight years and has been with the university for 23, said prior to the discovery of Zhou's car that it's common for students to take breaks from school, but this case is different.

Zhou received her bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2004 before coming to Stanford. At MIT, she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta.

She was born in Shanghai and raised in the United States. Her family has lived in San Diego since 1990, where Zhou graduated from high school.

Zhou is survived by her parents and a younger sister.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff/Bay City News

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