A Look Back At Brittany Murphy's Mysterious & Confounding Death

December 20, 2017
By: Catherine Townsend

Brittany Murphy

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Brittany Murphy

LOS ANGELES, CA — On December 20, 2009, actress Brittany Murphy collapsed at her home in Los Angeles after battling flu-like symptoms for a few days.

The Los Angeles Fire Department had responded to "a medical request" at the actress' home and tried to resuscitate her, but she suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the hospital at 10:04 A.M. Tragically, she was only 32 years old.

Murphy cried, "Mommy, I can't catch my breath. Help me," before passing out in the arms of her mother, Sharon Murphy, and husband, Simon Monjack, her mother told The Hollywood Reporter.

The death of the popular actress who charmed the world in Clueless and went on to star in movies including Girl, Interrupted; 8 Mile; and Sin City shocked the nation. The Los Angeles County coroner stated that the primary cause of Murphy's death was pneumonia, with secondary factors of iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication.

On February 25, 2010, the coroner released a report stating that Murphy had been taking a range of over-the-counter and prescription medications — most likely to treat a cold or respiratory infection — which included "elevated levels"of hydrocodone, acetaminophen, L-methamphetamine, and chlorpheniramine. All the drugs were legal, and the death was ruled an accident.

However, the report observed that "the possible adverse physiological effects of elevated levels of these medications cannot be discounted, especially in her weakened state." For years, rumors had circulated that Murphy may have been battling drug addiction or an eating disorder — especially after she lost a large amount of weight.

Brittany Murphy in 2006

Photo by: Rob Chandler, creative commons via Wikimedia Commons

Rob Chandler, creative commons via Wikimedia Commons

Brittany Murphy in 2006

In the three years prior to her death, Murphy, Monjack, and Sharon had been living under the same roof. Monjack refuted reports that Murphy was addicted to prescription drugs, despite the numerous pill bottles found at the scene, and also defended his decision to care for his wife at home. "My wife was not abusing prescription drugs that I was aware of," he told People after her death. "I had no idea she had pneumonia. I took very good care of my wife, she was on an antibiotic, and she was taking cough medicine and doing all the right things," he said.

The mystery deepened when, five months later, Murphy's mom Sharon found Monjack dead in the same bedroom where her daughter died. He was only 40 years old when he passed away. His cause of death read exactly the same as his wife's — pneumonia and anemia.

This prompted the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services to consider toxic mold in their home as a possible cause for their deaths, but this was dismissed by the Coroner's Office.

But in December 2011, Sharon Murphy announced that toxic mold was indeed what killed her daughter and son-in-law. She filed a lawsuit against the attorneys who represented her in an earlier suit against the builders of the home where her daughter and son-in-law died.

On January 11, 2012, Brittany's father Angelo Bertolotti applied to the Superior Court of California requesting that the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office be required to hand over samples of his daughter's hair for independent testing — but the suit was dismissed in 2012 after Bertolotti failed to attend hearings.

In November 2013, Bertolotti claimed that a toxicology report showed that deliberate poisoning by heavy metals — chemicals found in rat poison — was a possible cause of Murphy's death, and stated that he believed his ex-wife was responsible. Sharon Murphy described the claim as "a smear."

In an open letter to the Hollywood Reporter in 2013, she wrote:

"She was my baby, and we stood together throughout Brittany's life. Now I must stand up for her again. It is time for those who really knew and loved her to put those who want to exploit her on notice: Your lies will no longer be tolerated, and as long as I live will continue to be exposed."

Brittany Murphy was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.

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