Autopsy: David Carradine Died by Asphyxiation

Medical examiner Michael Baden does not rule out autoerotic death or homicide.

ByABC News
July 2, 2009, 4:11 PM

July 2, 2009— -- "Kung Fu" actor David Carradine died from asphyxiation, according to New York-based medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden, who was hired by the family to do a private autopsy on the actor.

Baden, the host of HBO's "Autopsy" series, ruled out suicide because of the way the actor's body was bound. He has not yet rule out homicide or autoerotic asphyxiation, which many had speculated was the cause of death.

Carradine was found June 4 hanging in the closet of his Bangkok hotel room. Until now, details on autopsies here and in Thailand have been scant. Thai authorities said their report would take at least a month.

Baden stressed that his full determination of how Carradine died will not be ready until at least a week.

"The cause of death was asphyxiation, an inability to breathe, now, why that happened is still what we're working on," Baden told Reuters today.

He also said the ligatures, or ropes, that bound Carradine's body at the time of death ruled out suicide. The family had insisted the actor was happy working on a film at the time of his death and would not have taken his own life.

"He didn't die of natural causes, and he didn't die of suicidal causes from the nature of the ligatures around the body, so that leaves some kind of accidental death," Baden said.

Thai authorities had suggested the 72-year-old actor could have died from accidental autoerotic asphyxiation. In response to a question on that topic, Baden did not rule out that possibility, but he also did not say autoerotic asphyxiation was the cause.

Contradicting media reports saying Carradine's hands were tied behind his back, Baden told Reuters the actor's hands were above his head.

The Carradine family had no comment after the autopsy report.

Baden said he was waiting for more information on the hotel pass keys and security video to determine if, as the family had suggested, the death was a homicide.

"It takes time to finish a case sometimes, so it's not unexpected," he said.

After the actor's death, Keith Carradine called his brother's death a "devastating loss" for his family and thanked fans for their "compassion."

Brother Robert Carradine added, "Until we have all of the pending results of the investigation we respectfully ask that we be allowed to lay our beloved brother, husband and father, grandfather and great-grandfather to rest in peace and with dignity.

"Once the investigation is fully completed and definitive conclusions have been reached, we will address the findings with the public," Robert Carradine added. "Thank you for your understanding during this profoundly painful time."

A grainy photo of his limp body in a Bangkok hotel room -- in what appears to be fishnet and a wig -- raised more questions about his mysterious death.

The photo, which was printed in the tabloid Thai Rath, shows Carradine's body suspended from a bar in a closet.

Police said he was found with his hands bound together above his head and rope around his neck and genitals. Nearby on a bed is what appears to be red women's lingerie.

Transvestite fetishes and thrill-seeking can be an integral part of auto-erotic asphyxia, the deadly sex play that Thai authorities said killed the 72-year-old former "Kung Fu" actor.

But these new details also add fuel to the Carradine family's claims that the actor may have been the victim of a homicide. His body was found hanging by ropes in a closet June 4 in a Bangkok hotel.

And while Thai authorities have ruled the actor's death as a sex play accident -- auto-erotic asphyxia gone wrong -- some say the evidence just doesn't add up.

"The thing that I am really questioning is, how was he bound, and how was he able to tie his own hands?" said Robert Dunlap, who interviewed hundreds of people who practice deviant sex behaviors for his 2002 documentary film, "Beyond Vanilla: An Unforgettable Journey Into the Wilder Side of Sex."

"This doesn't look like a solo act at all," he told "In order to have an orgasm, his hands would have had to be free. There is something very peculiar about this."

"You don't dress just for yourself," he said of the photos that revealed women's clothing. "Usually there is some sort of show and someone else is involved. It probably went horribly bad and they left."

Carradine's manager Chuck Binder has publicly echoed his own concerns.