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Brittany Murphy's death could be reinvestigated

Lisa Fogarty


Lisa Fogarty

Lisa Fogarty has written numerous articles for USA Today, The Stir, Opposing Views and other publications. She has covered everything from red carpet events to the discovery of toxic PCBs on school windows. She lives on Long Island, N.Y....

The young star's sudden death remains a mystery

Six years after the actress died of an "accidental death," some say the case should be reopened.  

She was young, talented and the rare actress fortunate enough to be cast in a slew of successful films in the '90s and early '00s. The world was shocked to hear of Brittany Murphy's death in 2009 at age 32, and many of her family members and fans never accepted her accidental death ruling. Their persistence may pay off: Murphy's death case could be reinvestigated — but several conditions will have to be met first, according to LA County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter, who spoke with Us Weekly.

Despite the initial belief that Murphy's death was the result of a combination of pneumonia, anemia and multiple-drug intoxication, her father, Angelo Bertolotti, took matters into his own hands in November 2013 and commissioned a lab to test her hair samples. Their findings were suspicious: The same heavy metals found in rat poison were detected in Murphy's hair, leading Bertolotti to a conclusion. He said, "I have a feeling there was a definite murder situation here. Yeah, it's poison. Yes, yes, I know that."

More: Brittany Murphy's mom shoots down poisoning claims

But heavy metals alone are not enough proof that the state has a murder case on its hands. Winter admits there is a lot of speculation, but says the lab report differs from their report. The same metals found in Murphy's hair could also be found in hair dye, he says, and the levels of heavy metals they detected aren't enough to warrant looking into this again.

In a nutshell, Winter says it's going to take more than speculation and heavy metals to reopen the investigation: "We would have to have direct evidence," he said. "In all honesty, it would take something like a confession. Something connecting somebody with it."

Winter added, "If the police wanted to conduct an investigation, or if somebody came to us and said, 'This is the following circumstances, did you guys find this or this?' then we would contact the law enforcement agency also and say, 'The family or somebody came and said that somebody confessed to actually putting some sort of poison in her food.'" But for now, he says there are no concrete plans of opening the case.

More: Was Brittany Murphy poisoned by contaminated drugs?

It's extremely difficult to read Bertolotti's comments and not think, "Well, what if there were a different reason for her death? Why not explore that avenue, just in case?" At the very least, it will put her poor family's mind at ease and provide them with closure. But it takes money, time and resources to reinvestigate a death, and Winter simply doesn't feel the proof is there. Perhaps that will change one day — and surely the fact that we're still talking about Murphy's death many years later means we're not completely convinced it was linked to the findings in the coroner's report. I guess time will tell whether it's necessary to revisit this sad case.

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