What Went Wrong With Brittany Murphy?

Was it drugs, anorexia or her "shady" husband that led to her death at 32?

December 21, 2009, 5:48 PM

Dec. 22, 2009— -- Two days after Brittany Murphy's shocking death of a heart attack, many are searching for clues as to what went wrong with the "Clueless" star.

On Monday, the coroner completed an autopsy of the 32-year-old actress who suffered cardiac arrest at her Hollywood home on Sunday and was pronounced dead on arrival at 10:04 a.m. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Los Angeles County Chief Coroner Ed Winter told ABCNews.com that it will be four to six weeks before laboratory results are in and the official cause of death can be determined.

In the meantime, family, friends and the Hollywood community are trying to make sense of Murphy's life cut short.

"My world was destroyed," Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack told "Access Hollywood," on Monday.

Monjack confirmed reports from the coroner's office that his wife had flu like symptoms in the days before her death, but said it was nothing serious.

"She had laryngitis," and had seen a doctor, he told Access Hollywood. "She had been tired at the end of the year. She had made a couple movies."

But when Murphy did not come out of the bathroom after about half an hour on Sunday morning, her mother went to check on her.

"[Her mother] Sharon went into the bathroom because she had been in there a long time. Her mom screamed for me and I ran. Then called 911," he told "Access Hollywood."

"When someone dies like this it comes at you like a ton of bricks," Murphy's older half brother Jeff Bertolotti told ABCNews.com on Monday. "All of her brothers and sisters are devastated."

Murphy had another half brother Tony Bertolotti, who was older, and a half sister Pia Bertolotti, who was two years younger. Their father, Angelo Bertolotti, was married to Murphy's mother, Sharon Murphy. The couple split when Murphy was two and she went to live with her mother in Edison, N.J., and later Los Angeles, when Murphy decided to pursue a career in acting.

She got her breakout role in the film "Clueless" when she was 17. "8 Mile" with Eminem, "Girl Interrupted" with Angelina Jolie and "Just Married" with Ashton Kutcher established her as a young Hollywood star.

"I saw a kid who was working far too hard," Jeff Bertolotti said. "But she really was finding her true voice in the last two years or so. [Hollywood] really takes people in and spits them out."

"Clueless" director Amy Heckerling echoed Bertolotti's comments in an interview for a Los Angeles Times blog on Sunday.

"Everybody's shaking their heads and going 'drugs,' of course. I don't know what was happening on the last movie. I know that, you know, she seemed to go through a change ... on 'Clueless,'" Heckerling said.

"Maybe she felt like she was not the, like, skinny, pretty girl, you know? And then the next few movies she was, you know, thinner, blonde ... and going out with Eminem and Ashton Kutcher, and, you know, suddenly got more into that whole glamorous scene," she said. "I think she felt the pressure to become a different sort of commodity to survive in show business, and I think it was awful."

Brittany Murphy's Problems Due to Poor Self Esteem, Friend Says

One of Murphy's friends told People magazine many of her problems were due to poor self esteem.

"She wore extraordinary amounts of makeup, tons of fake eyelashes, got her teeth capped, dyed her hair blonde, lost weight -- she wanted to be a beauty," the friend said. "She didn't want to be the fat girl from 'Clueless.' She didn't eat a lot. She would drink copious amounts of coffee."

Recently, reports had emerged that Murphy was behaving erratically on movie sets and had been fired from her last film, "The Caller," which her rep denied.

In her final red carpet appearance on Dec. 3, Murphy appeared gaunt.

"We noticed here last week how incredibly thin and unhealthy she looked," US Weekly senior editor Bradley Jacobs told ABCNews.com. "She appeared skinnier than ever."

She may not have looked well when she attended the boutique opening in Los Angeles, but Murphy was excited about the future.

"As far as having a New Year's resolution, I'd love to have a child next year," she told "Access Hollywood." "But that's kind of a large one."

When she first revealed a radically slimmed-down figure in 2002's "Spun," the tabloids linked her weight loss to cocaine. Three years later, she tried to set the record straight.

"I have never tried it in my entire life," she told Jane magazine. "I've never even seen it. ... It couldn't be further from the truth."

Before that, in 2001, she told a columnist for the entertainment blog TheWrap.com that she would never take drugs because she had a heart condition.

"It was in an interview about 'Sidewalks of New York' but I asked her about other projects and she mentioned 'Spun,'" columnist Michael Adams recalled for the Web site. "I asked her -- as a joke -- if she'd taken meth for research and she laughed and said even if she wanted to she couldn't take drugs because she'd had a heart condition since she was a little girl."

Murphy also denied having an eating disorder.

"I'm the same size I was in 'Clueless;' it's just that the weight in your face changes as you grow and get older," she said in 2005 while promoting "Sin City." "This is my body. I'm proud of it. ... I'm healthy."

Brittany Murphy's Death Revives Questions About Her Health

But others questioned just how healthy she was.

"A lot of people weren't surprised to hear about [the death of] someone who for years was rumored to have problems with substance abuse," E! gossip columnist Marc Malkin told ABCNews.com. "You saw the photos of her looking painfully thin? In this industry where there's smoke, there's fire. When I heard it, I was sad but not 100 percent surprised."

Before parting ways with her most recent film gig two weeks ago, Murphy struggled to keep her job on the film before that, "Something Wicked," which has not yet been released.

A production insider told TheWrap.com that Murphy "was barely there," and would "go in and out of consciousness in the middle of takes." The insider said folks on the set widely assumed Murphy was using prescription drugs.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Murphy was taking prescription drugs for a variety of medical ailments, while TMZ said prescription drugs were found throughout the home Murphy shared with Monjack.

Winter confirmed that several legal prescription medications -- all made out to Murphy -- were recovered from her apartment and taken in as evidence. According to the coroner documetns obtained by TMZ, Murphy's medications included Topamax (anti-seizure meds also to prevent migraines), Methylprednisolone (anti-inflammatory), Fluoxetine (depression med), Klonopin (anxiety med), Carbamazepine (treats Diabetic symptoms and is also a bipolar med), Ativan (anxiety med), Vicoprofen (pain reliever), Propranolol (hypertension, used to prevent heart attacks), Biaxin (antibiotic), Hydrocodone (pain med) and miscellaneous vitamins.

"No foul play is suspected," the coroner told ABCNews.com, adding that the cause of death "appears to be natural."

LuAnn White of the Tulane Center for Applied Environmental Public Health in New Orleans told ABCNews.com that it is uncommon for a seemingly healthy 32-year-old to suddenly die from cardiac arrest. White said she would look for congenital heart defects, prescription or illegal drug overdose or an eating disorder.

"Restrictive food or liquid intake and/or chronic vomiting associated with anorexia and bulimia can result in excessive loss of water and essential salts," which can lead to cardiac arrest, White said.

Murphy's death has also shined the spotlight on her husband once again. After a brief relationship with Kutcher and engagements to talent manager Jeff Kwatinetz and crewman Joe Macaluso, Murphy married the British screenwriter after just four months of dating.

Tabloid reports quickly surfaced that Monjack was a shady businessman facing major debts and deportation for an expired work visa -- something both Monjack and Murphy denied as "preposterous lies" to "In Touch Weekly."

Brittany Murphy's Marriage to Monjack Raised Questions

"When she married him, people said, 'Who is this guy? What's going on?'" Malkin said. "He apparently had some money problems. He was evicted from three apartments, owed a mortgage company some money, which he paid back, was causing problems with her on the set of her movie. Whenever you hear about him, it was always for something shady."

Monjack has been the defendant in several lawsuits, according to documents obtained by ABCNews.com. In 2006, a British bank received a court judgment against him for $470,132. In 2005, before he met Murphy, Monjack and his girlfriend were evicted from their New York apartment for owing $7,025 in back rent.

His ex-wife Simone Bienne also took him to court in November 2007, six months after his marriage to Murphy, for $50,000 she claims she was never paid after their 2006 divorce.

Recently, Monjack was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital after his plane landed. Murphy reportedly didn't think it was serious enough for Monjack to go to the hospital, but the fire department disagreed. According to TMZ, Monjack was incoherent when EMTs boarded the plane.

It was also reported that her husband Monjack would lurk around the set of her last film "The Caller" and intervene so much that producers had to call a meeting to discuss how to deal with him. Perez Hilton claimed that Monjack allegedly got involved in a fight "with some locals."

Monjack defended himself against suggestions that he had been a negative influence on Murphy. "I don't know why anyone would think that," he told "Access Hollywood." "She found love. We found love. Brittany didn't get to where Brittany was with anyone controlling her… Brittany was Brittany."

Murphy is no stranger to shady characters. Her father Angelo Bertolotti was a convicted member of the mob and served jail time. From most accounts, she steered clear of him.

"We weren't that close and that was probably because my father was a pretty high-profile guy, involved with mob ties, etc," her half brother Jeff Bertolotti said.

As if to distance herself from him even further, she even changed her legal name to Murphy in 2002.

Despite her personal struggles, Murphy was widely respected as a member of young Hollywood and worked with A-list co-stars including Michael Douglas.

"She was beautiful and an actress people wanted to work with," Malkin said. "She really touched a lot of people in this town. Yes, she had dropped out of the spotlight, but somewhere in the back of your head you're saying maybe she'll come back. She's not coming back."

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