Were Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack Poisoned?

It was quite shocking to learn about the sudden death of 32-year-old Clueless actress Brittany Murphy in December 2009, followed five months later by the death of her husband, Simon Monjack.

And now there’s a shocking twist to the story: They may have been poisoned!

An autopsy on Murphy by the LA Coroner’s office  reported that she suffered an accidental death from pneumonia complicated by iron-deficiency anemia but also “multiple drug intoxication.” Monjack’s autopsy listed “acute pneumonia and severe anemia” as his cause of death.

Murphy’s father, Angelo Bertolotti, never believed the conclusions of the LA Coroner’s reports, saying:

“Vicious rumors, spread by tabloids, unfairly smeared Brittany’s reputation. My daughter was neither anorexic nor a drug junkie, as they repeatedly implied. … I will not rest until the truth about these tragic events is told. There will be justice for Brittany.”

Bertolotti, after several years of legal wrangling, was finally able to secure his daughter’s hair, blood and tissue samples for testing at an independent lab. In particular, Bertolotti wanted the samples tested for poisons, something that was not done at the time of the original autopsy.

The lab, the Carlson Company, is a laboratory in Colorado which specializes in DNA and toxicology evaluations. Their results revealed  elevated levels of several heavy metal, which can be found in some rat poisons, insecticides (bug killers) as well as other sources, including medications, herbal medications and dietary supplements :

“Ten (10) of the heavy metals evaluated were detected at levels higher that the WHO [The World Health Organization] high levels. 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. 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.”

brittany murphy's lab report

The report from Carlson shows very high levels of aluminum, nine times the upper limit of “high”, four times the levels of “high”of manganese and uranium, and twice the levels of “high” of selenium, silver, antimony and barium.

At the time of her death, Murphy had displayed several symptoms consistent with heavy metal poisoning: headaches, dizziness, abdominal cramps, coughing, sweating, disorientation, wheezing, congestion and pneumonia.

When asked to comment about these latest finding, the LA Coroner’s office Chief Coroner Investigator, Craig R. Harvey told the Huffington Post:

“The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner has no plans to reopen our inquiry into the deaths. We stand by our original reports. We have not been presented any [third] party lab test results for analysis, so we are unable to comment on publicized reports of private lab tests.”

Stay tuned…. It doesn’t sound like Angelo Bertolotti is going to let these lab results go unheeded. It’s not reported what his next move will be.

 What is heavy metal poisoning?

Heavy metal poisoning refers to an overexposure to lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium or metallic element that causes irritation or damage to the body.

Heavy metals can be found naturally in the environment, in homes, or at the work place. Sudden severe exposures as well as moderate exposures over time can cause toxicity. Depending on the exposure, metals can increase cancer risk, impair production of red and white blood cells, and affect physical and mental health.

Acute heavy metal poisoning occurs when people are exposed to large amounts of a heavy metal at one time, such as swallowing a lead toy or drinking a large amount of arsenic. They can quickly cause severe illness and even death. Signs of acute poisoning include confusion, numbness, nausea and vomiting, and coma.

Heavy_Metal_Poisoning-2Chronic heavy metal poisoning is a long-term exposure to lower levels of heavy metals. This can also cause health problems. Symptoms evolve much more slowly.

Almost all organs can be affected  by high levels of heavy metals but the most sensitive include the nervous system (the brain and the nerves that extend outward into the extremities), the GI tract, the blood, the kidneys and the heart.



Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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