Dad says he has handed over lab results, wants case reopened
The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office says it might re-investigate Brittany Murphy‘s death — if her father hands over lab results he says prove she was poisoned.
Her father told TheWrap he sent them Friday. Chief Coroner Investigator Craig Harvey told TheWrap he hasn't seen them yet.
The back-and-forth isn't likely to improve what has been a sometimes tense relationship between the coroner's office and Murphy's 87-year-old father, Angelo Bertolotti. An independent toxicologist, meanwhile, says the new lab reports seem unreliable.
In an interview Tuesday, Harvey said the office is not currently re-investigating the actress’ case because Bertolotti has not shared the results. He noted that Bertolotti had provided them to news outlets.
“If there were concerns, you'd think you would go back to the source and ask us to take a look at it, rather than release it directly to the media,” Harvey said.
If Bertolotti contacted the coroner's office with his new information, the office would “want to take a look at the methodology” to see if the results appeared valid, Harvey said.
“We would certainly talk to him,” Harvey added. “If he wants us to take a look at it, he needs to provide us with the complete documentation.”
Until it sees the lab results, Harvey said, the coroner's office has no plans to reopen the investigation.
But Bertolotti and Julia Davis, a friend of Murphy's who is also pushing for an investigation, said they sent the results by certified mail Friday, from Los Angeles. Davis provided TheWrap a copy of the letter she said was sent to the coroner.
“I'm not sure why the coroner's telling you they never received the test results,” Davis said.
Murphy's father (pictured with his daughter) didn't accept the coroner's conclusion that the “Clueless” star and husband Simon Monjack died of natural causes — pneumonia and anemia — five months apart. He sued to gain access to her hair and tissue samples.
Once the coroner's office concluded that he was entitled to the samples, it turned them over to a private lab of Bertolotti's choosing — the Carlson Company — to look for signs of poisoning.
The lab found that Murphy's body had dramatically elevated levels of aluminum, manganese, barium and other metals. Its report said that she appeared to have been poisoned by “a third party perpetrator with likely criminal intent.”
Harvey said the coroner's office did not check for heavy metal poisoning at the time of Murphy's death in 2009 because there was no reason to suspect she had been poisoned. Because of cost, the coroner does not usually check for every possible cause of death.
Harvey couldn't say how long it might take to investigate if Murphy's father turned over the data.
“It's just science,” he said. “It does take a while.”
He declined to discuss the lab's findings without the coroner's office seeing them firsthand. But he said it would not be unusual for some heavy metals to be found within the body. The issue is whether Murphy had enough to be poisoned.
“I'm not going to discuss the levels because we haven't seen the documentation,” Harvey said.
But it's out there, Murphy's dad says. Somewhere.
Read the letter Murphy's father sent to the L.A. Coroner: