Robin Williams: Autopsy Confirms Death by Suicide
Williams had antidepressants, caffeine and Parkinson's drugs in his system
Robin Williams' death was ruled a suicide, Marin County officials confirmed on Friday. Autopsy results revealed Williams' death was caused by asphyxia and hanging.
The actor died at 63 on Aug. 11 at his home in Tiburon, Calif. in Marin County. Toxicology reports reveal antidepressants, caffeine and levodopa, a drug used to treat Parkinson's disease, in his system. Williams had battled severe depression for years and had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's, his widow, Susan, revealed after his death. He also had a "recent increase in paranoia," according to a medical history authorities recorded at the scene.
The night before Williams died, he had placed several wristwatches in a sock and dropped them off with someone (whose name was redacted) because he was worried about the timepieces and "wanted to keep them safe," according to the report. Then at 7:09 p.m. he called Susan to tell her he was picking up magazines for her at the bookstore.
When he returned home, Williams handed Susan the magazines and seemed "OK," she told investigators. Then he was in and out of their bedroom, rummaging through their closet. He left with his iPad, and Susan said "she recalled thinking it was a good thing he grabbed it, because she assumed he was in a good mood and was going to take time to do some reading; he hadn't read or watched TV in six months." He left the bedroom around 10:30 p.m. — it would be the last time she saw him.
Twelve hours later, Susan believed her husband was still sleeping and left the house. At about 11:45 a.m. Aug. 11, Williams' assistant grew concerned. He slipped a note under the door, then picked the lock. He found the comedian dressed in a long black T-shirt and belted black jeans hanging by a nylon belt in a closet door frame. The actor, who was being treated for severe depression, also had cuts on his wrist. He wasn't wearing a ring or a watch.
Williams was found in an empty bedroom belonging to his stepson, who was away visiting his father. The actor slept in a separate bedroom because he was having a hard time sleeping and was "restless due to his Parkinson's and anxiety issues," and talked in his sleep, the investigator's report says. The room had a bunk bed — the top bunk was neatly made — the bottom bunk crumpled and the bedding pulled down.
Near the body, investigators found personal items placed on a chair, including an iPad and two different kinds of anti-depressants: Mirtazapene and Seroquel. Police found an engraved pocketknife with a dried red substance that was later confirmed as Williams' blood. Susan told investigators Williams often received gifts from his USO tours with the military, and that the knife was likely from her husband's collection.
A pair of black sneakers were next to the chair. In the right shoe was a pair of black socks; in the left, the assumed case of the pocketknife. Williams' iPhone and wallet were found in his pockets.
By the time police arrived, Williams was clearly dead, the report says. No efforts were made to revive him, and his death was declared at 12:02 p.m.
Despite a long and well-documented history of depression, Williams' wife and assistant said he never expressed suicidal thoughts or behavior. His pill dispenser had been refilled the day before, but the medications remained undisturbed in their appointed daily slots, Sunday through Saturday. The investigator asked Susan if Robin had ever mentioned suicide "as a solution to a significant health issue." After searching through Williams' iPad, which was near his body, Investigator D. Harris found only web browsers open to information about medications. A sweep of his iPhone revealed no texts or messages that indicated he was suicidal.
"There were no reflective devices or pornography near the body" the report says. The investigator says he "frankly asked" if Williams had any "history of autoerotic asphyxia. Mrs. Williams stated that he did not." However, one person interviewed said Williams had worked on a movie years earlier in which his character's son accidentally died by autoerotic asphyxiation. That person added that "the scene was very difficult and emotional for Williams" and he may have researched hanging during filming.
A search of Williams' iPhone, iPad and home computer revealed no search histories for suicide or hanging. However, the investigator writes that he later watched the movie in question — the dark comedy World's Greatest Dad — and said the character's son was found "seated on the floor, learning forward with a ligature around the neck secured by a belt" — very similar to the scene of Williams' death.
The Marin Sheriff's Office previously drew criticism for releasing candid details about Williams' death but said the disclosure was necessary under the California Public Records Act. The final autopsy report was originally scheduled to be released Sept. 30 but had been delayed twice.
Williams won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his performance as an avuncular psychologist in Good Will Hunting and earned four Academy Award nominations in a career that straddled film and television. His most recent TV show, The Crazy Ones with Sarah Michelle Gellar, was canceled after one season.
Oct. 7, 4:03 p.m. Updated with details throughout.