March 25, 2016
Brittany Murphy’s Death: Coroner Speaks Out about Possibility of Reopening Investigation
Brittany Murphy's untimely death is still shrouded in mystery.
The 32-year-old actress died at home in 2009, and her husband Simon Monjack passed away five months later. Both were suffering from pneumonia.
Now, E! News is taking a closer look at the case after Brittany's spirit allegedly came through during a reading between “Hollywood Medium” star Tyler Henry and actress Jaime Pressly. Tyler told Jaime that someone came forward with a name like "Britney" who felt that she passed away too soon, and that this presence blamed an outside influence.
E! asked L.A. County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter what it would take to reopen the death investigation.
"We would have to have direct evidence. In all honesty, it would take something like a confession,” he said. “Something connecting somebody with it."
Winter explained they would exhume the body "if law enforcement contacted us. Or we can reopen the case if there is substantial evidence."
Brittany's death was ruled accidental due to natural causes. The autopsy cited pneumonia, anemia, and an accidental mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Simon also died of pneumonia. He had several prescription drugs in his system at the time of his death.
"I think it could have been preventable,” Winter said. "The problem is Simon would doctor-shop and got numerous medications with numerous names and had a problem with prescription meds. Brittany was sick and instead of getting her treatment, Simon and her mother didn't take her to the doctor and used an abundance of over-the-counter meds."
In 2013, Murphy's estranged father Angelo Bertolotti had her hair tested to rule out any foul play. The results included high levels of toxic metals, including barium, which is used in some rat poisons.
Referencing the test results, Winter said, "We could have reopened the case, but we didn't think it warranted it."
“[T]he only thing they found was heavy metals present, but I guess either our folks or a doctor explained to them it was due to Brittany coloring her hair… It was determined it was from color. She wasn't poisoned, and we stand by the cause of death. She died from over-the-counter medicines, pneumonia, and anemia."
Forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht told E! how they would have handled the case at the University of Pittsburgh."I would have checked to see if the private lab results were valid and, if they could be corroborated and analyzed, whether there was exposure, and where did the exposure come from. You have two people — a husband and a wife — dying within five months of each other. And, not engaging in any wild speculation, with two young people dying five months apart, you've got to check it out, and I still don't know what happened."
Wecht added, "It [the case] was dropped, and they should have investigated it."