- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

Heath OD’d on meds

Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose of painkillers, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medication and other prescription drugs, the New York City medical examiner said yesterday.

The cause of death was “acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine,” spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.

According to Associated Press, the drugs are the generic names for the painkiller OxyContin, the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and Xanax, and the sleep aids Restoril and Unisom. Hydrocodone is a widely used prescription painkiller.

Miss Borakove wouldn’t say what concentrations of each drug were found in Mr. Ledger’s blood or whether one drug played a greater part than another in causing his death. “What you’re looking at here is the cumulative effects of these medications together,” she said.

The ruling comes two weeks after the 28-year-old Australian-born actor was found dead in the bed of his rented SoHo apartment. Police found bottles of six types of prescription drugs in his bedroom and bathroom. Mr. Ledger’s family returned to the actor’s hometown of Perth, Australia, on Tuesday to prepare for his funeral.

Mr. Ledger was discovered by his masseuse on Jan. 22 after she arrived for an appointment that afternoon. She entered his bedroom to set up for the massage, found him unresponsive and called Mary-Kate Olsen three times over the next nine minutes before dialing 911. He had been dead for some time, and police say no foul play occurred.

Nominated for an Oscar for his role in 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” Mr. Ledger had returned to New York from London, where he had been filming a $30 million Terry Gilliam film in the days before his death. He said in a November interview that his most recent completed roles in the Batman movie “The Dark Knight” and the Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There” had taken a toll and added that he couldn’t sleep.

“Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night,” Mr. Ledger told the New York Times.

Reversal of fortune

The real estate bubble has burst for Veronica Hearst — widow of Randolph A. Hearst and stepmother of 1970s kidnap victim Patty Hearst. Her 52-room mansion in Florida has become a victim of foreclosure.

The Villa Venezia in Manalapan, just south of Palm Beach, is scheduled to be auctioned off on the courthouse steps on Feb. 25 to pay the $45 million Mrs. Hearst owes to New Stream Secured Capital, which holds three mortgages on the property, says the Denver Post, citing a story from the New York Post.

The Dutch-born socialite insists she has plenty of money and claims her current problems were caused by “a conflict of interest,” which she is about to resolve by refinancing. However, according to court papers, the widow also has mortgaged some of her art and pays $290,000 a year in interest on those loans. “When Randy died in 2000, he made sure she was debt-free except for the house. He had to take out several bridge loans while he was alive to pay for her spending,” an unnamed friend of the family was quoted as saying.

“They almost feel bad for her — but she was just so nasty. The family hates her because she kept his kids from seeing him before he died,” the source said.

Last year, expenses on the 28,000-square-foot mansion, designed in 1930 for Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, the great-grandson of railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, included $375,000 in property taxes, a $205,000 insurance premium and $44,000 in utility bills.

Britney released

Britney Spears was released quietly yesterday from a hospital where she had been undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, a police official told AP.

“It occurred without any law enforcement intervention, and for the public, that’s a good thing,” said Capt. Sharyn Buck, commander of the North Hollywood police station.

The troubled singer was hospitalized early on Jan. 31, taken by ambulance under an extensive police escort to a psychiatric facility at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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