- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2009

LOS ANGELES

Coroner’s officials are looking into how the celebrity Web site TMZ obtained details on prescription drugs contained in an investigator’s report on the death of actress Brittany Murphy.

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said Tuesday he didn’t know how TMZ obtained the confidential report and that he was concerned other aspects of the investigation could be leaked.

“I’m furious,” Mr. Winter said. “We don’t normally release partial information. If partial information goes out, it of course makes us look bad. Everybody ought to get it at the same time.”

Miss Murphy, 32, died on Sunday after collapsing at her Hollywood Hills home. Police and the coroner’s office are investigating the death, but detectives have said their initial inquiry found no evidence of wrongdoing.

TMZ’s report stated that the investigator, who is identified only by last name, noted that numerous bottles of prescription medications were found in Miss Murphy’s name at the home where she collapsed. The medications ranged from depression and anti-anxiety drugs to painkillers.

Medications also were found in the name of Miss Murphy’s husband, British screenwriter Simon Monjack, TMZ reported. The celebrity gossip Web site declined to say how it obtained the report.

Mr. Winter has said prescription medications were taken from Miss Murphy’s home but he doesn’t know how many or what kind. No illegal drugs were found, he has said.

Mr. Winter said he spoke with TMZ’s managing editor, Harvey Levin, who declined to say how the site obtained details from the report. Mr. Winter said Mr. Levin told him they did not come directly from the investigator or the office’s two main press contacts, who include Mr. Winter.

The coroner’s office is looking into the possibility that the investigator’s report was transmitted to an outside agency and the leak occurred there, Mr. Winter said.

An autopsy on Miss Murphy was completed Monday, but a determination on her cause of death has been deferred until toxicology and tissue testing are complete. Her death may have been from natural causes, but that won’t be decided until all testing is complete, Mr. Winter said.

Miss Murphy is best-known for her roles in films such as “Clueless,” “Girl, Interrupted” and “8 Mile.” In recent years, her on-screen roles were in smaller projects, and she voiced the character of Luanne Platter in more than 200 episodes of Fox’s animated series “King of the Hill.”

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

After Michael Jackson’s June 25 death, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigated whether workers at the coroner’s office had leaked details of the pop superstar’s death to the media.

No evidence of wrongdoing was found, although Jackson’s death certificate was improperly viewed by at least a half-dozen employees who had no role in investigating the cause of his death.

Winter said he’s concerned about other info about Miss Murphy’s death being released before his office releases its conclusions in four to six weeks.

“The investigator did interview her doctor,” Mr. Winter said. “I haven’t even seen what was obtained from the doctor. I’m worried that TMZ or somebody else got that info.”

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