January 24, 2008 in Nation/World

Autopsy inconclusive in death of Ledger

Paul Lieberman and Rachel Abramowitz Los Angeles Times
 

NEW YORK – It will take as long as two weeks to determine the cause of Heath Ledger’s death, the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office said Wednesday, but police were investigating the possibility of a drug overdose as additional details emerged about the discovery of the 28-year-old actor’s body.

Authorities said a rolled-up $20 bill was found near him on the floor of his loft and that one of the women who found him phoned actress Mary-Kate Olsen before she called authorities.

New York police said that masseuse Diana Wolozin, who had an appointment to give Ledger a massage at his Soho loft, called Olsen in California using the actor’s cell phone, knowing her to be a friend of his, and only after a second conversation with the actress dialed the police emergency number at 3:26 p.m. to report that Ledger was unresponsive.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that no illegal drugs were found in the spacious loft and that no drug residue was visible on the rolled-up bill. Earlier, a police spokesman at the scene reported that sleeping pills were found near the bed and other prescription drugs were in the bathroom, reportedly including anti-depressants, but there was no sign of foul play or any note.

An autopsy Wednesday morning proved “inconclusive,” according to the city medical examiner, meaning that authorities will have to wait 10 days to two weeks for the results of toxicology and tissue tests to find out what killed the actor who won acclaim for his portrayal of a gay cowboy in 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain.”

On Wednesday, police Detective Brian Sessa provided a timeline of how Ledger’s body was discovered:

•About 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Teresa Solomon arrived to clean the apartment on Broome Street and while changing a bathroom light bulb a half-hour later, she saw Ledger face down on his bed and heard him snoring.

•Ledger did not come out of the bedroom when the masseuse arrived at 2:45 p.m., so Wolozin called his cell phone, apparently to wake him, and got no response. Entering the bedroom, the masseuse started setting up her table, but the actor still did not wake when she stirred him.

•Wolozin speed-dialed Olsen using Ledger’s phone to report that the actor was unresponsive, and Olsen then called a security company in New York. The masseuse soon after phoned her again to say that Ledger remained unconscious and then called a 911 operator.

•Wolozin still was unable to revive the actor and a New York Fire Department emergency crew could not either when it reached the loft at 3:33 p.m. Guards from the security company Olsen called reached the scene about the same time.

During efforts to revive Ledger, the fire rescue team moved his body off the bed, police said, thus explaining an initial statement by an NYPD spokesman Tuesday night that the actor had been found naked, face-down on the floor, at the foot of the bed.

Police said all the witnesses were cooperating, including Olsen, who for a time attended nearby New York University with her twin sister, Ashley. “The whole thing is still under investigation,” Sessa said.

In the weeks before his return to New York on Sunday, Ledger had been working in London on the $30 million Terry Gilliam fantasy movie “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.”

Warner Bros. said through a spokeswoman Wednesday that its executives have not met to discuss how it will now handle marketing and publicity on “The Dark Knight,” this summer’s Batman sequel that stars Ledger as the evil Joker. The core of the film’s early marketing efforts had focused on Ledger’s character, who appears in ghoulish white makeup with jagged scars trailing from the corners of his mouth.


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