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Three Persistent Rumors Circulating Since Brittany Murphy's Mysterious Death
Was Brittany Murphy, star of "8 Mile" and "Clueless," the victim of mold, intentional poisoning, or neglect?
Brittany Murphy’s death at the age of 32 was shocking and has fueled numerous conspiracy theories about what what really happened to her.
In 2009, the "8 Mile" star collapsed in the bathroom of the Hollywood Hills mansion she shared with her husband Simon Monjack and mother Sharon Murphy. Sharon called 911 but Murphy was pronounced dead when she arrived at a nearby hospital. She was just 32 years old.
An autopsy report later determined that her cause of death was pneumonia with secondary factors of iron deficiency anemia. No illegal drugs were found in her system.
Just five months later, Monjack died of the exact same causes. In fact, he collapsed in the very same bathroom as Murphy.
The mysterious elements of Murphy's death, and the fact that her husband died in the same manner, prompted the public to wonder if there was something more to the story than what was revealed in the autopsy report results. And with that mystery, rumors and conspiracy theories quickly followed.
These are the three most persistent rumors regarding Murphy’s death:
The fact that both Murphy and Monjack grew ill and died within the same home led to rumors that their Hollywood mansion was full of black mold. Mold can cause pneumonia, but such a phenomenon is uncommon. Sharon Murphy has called the toxic mold theory “absurd,” People reported in 2010.
“I have never been personally asked by the coroner or anyone from the Health Department to come and inspect my home for mold,” she told the outlet.
Roger Neal, a spokesperson for the family, told People in 2010 that the home was inspected in 2009 because of a leak issue. During that inspection, mold wasn’t discovered. But as the new two-part docuseries “What Happened, Brittany Murphy?” points out, Sharon did become suspicious at some point that there was mold in the home and apparently claimed she discovered mold inside the walls.
Mold in the home or not, Dr. Lisa Scheinin, a retired coroner who conducted Brittany’s autopsy, claims she found no evidence that mold was negatively affecting the “Clueless” star.
“I know there were rumors that toxic mold may have played a role in Brittany's death and possibly the death of her husband but in my autopsy I didn’t see any evidence of mold on her lungs or other organs,” she told the producers of the docuseries, adding that typically such evidence is visible.
Angelo Bertolotti, Murphy's father, told "Good Morning America" in 2013 that he believes his daughter was intentionally poisoned.
"I have a feeling that there was a definite murder situation here," he said.
A lab report that Bertolotti commissioned showed the presence of heavy metals in her system when she died.
"Testing the hair strand sample identified as 'back of the head' we have detected ten (10) heavy metals at levels above the WHO high levels recommendation,” the report states, according to ABC News. “If we were to eliminate the possibility of a simultaneous accidental heavy metals exposure to the sample donor then the only logical explanation would be an exposure to these metals (toxins) administered by a third party perpetrator with likely criminal intent."
Sharon Murphy, who apparently shared a bed with Monjack after Murphy's death, has vehemently dismissed such claims. She also hinted that Bertolotti only wanted to profit off his late daughter’s career and fame.
Bruce Goldberger, a toxicologist at the University of Florida, told ABC News that such lab results don’t necessarily mean that a person was poisoned. He said Murphy lacked the lines across her fingernails that are commonly seen in heavy metal poisoning cases.
Neglect by husband
“What Happened, Brittany Murphy” casts suspicion on Murphy's mysterious husband, Simon Monjack. The British-born filmmaker was known for being a pathological liar who allegedly claimed to be a billionaire. He would routinely claim he survived terminal spinal cancer with medicine that contained shark fins. He also allegedly lied about dating Madonna and Elle MacPherson, and of having the largest collection of Johannes Vermeer paintings in the world.
But what concerned Murphy’s loved ones and colleagues about Monjack the most was his allegedly controlling behavior. He took over the star's finances as well as her email account and phone, and limited who she talked to. In fact, it’s not clear if she even had access to her own phone at all. He also became her manager after they wed. Those close to Murphy point out in “What Happened, Brittany Murphy” that he isolated her from people both in her work and personal life. He’d make decisions large and small about everything from her diet to makeup on set. Numerous prescriptions were found in the couple's homes under various fake names and aliases. In the years before her death, Murphy was becoming more and more thin and frail, which only fueled eating disorder and drug abuse rumors.
Elizabeth Ragsdale, Monjack’s former fiancée, told the producers of “What Happened, Brittany Murphy” that while she was pregnant with Monjack’s alleged son, Monjack isolated her from all her friends. She apparently fell ill during her pregnancy and he neglected to take her to the hospital. One friend managed to visit Ragsdale and remarked that she looked as though she had been in a “concentration camp.” That friend demanded that Ragsdale get immediate medical treatment. Ragdale credits that pal for “saving” her life.
The docuseries explores the possibility that Monjack's control over Murphy's body and lifestyle injured her health and allowed him to siphon off her milliions.