Ledger Autopsy Inconclusive: More Tests Needed to Determine Cause of Death

Actor Heath Ledger, 28, was found dead in a New York apartment.

Jan. 23, 2008 — -- A rolled-up $20 bill found in Heath Ledger's apartment has tested negative for drug residue, police officials told ABC News.

Earlier, investigative sources told ABC News the bill might be coated with what appeared to be the residue of a recreational drug. The way the bill was found -- rolled up -- was the primary reason police had it tested in a lab.

The news that the lab results showed the bill was clean comes as officials attempt to identify substances that may have led to what still appears to be an accidental overdose by the actor Tuesday.

Authorities also revealed to ABC News details about the drugs found in Ledger's apartment. They included multiple prescription drugs (including Ambien, Xanax and Vallium in their generic forms), over-the-counter medications and medications from Europe. The prescription medications were made out in the actor's name and were in the prescription bottles or packets.

A preliminary autopsy completed this morning was unable to determine what killed the actor. His body was found Tuesday in his Soho loft.

The New York City medical examiner's office told ABC News it will conduct additional toxicology and tissue tests that will take from 10 days to two weeks to complete.

According to the medical examiner's office, there are no obvious indicators of what killed the "Brokeback Mountain" star, and nothing to contradict initial police reports that the death was not a suicide.

The initial autopsy did, however, offer clues about the cause of Ledger's death.

The fact that initial tests were inconclusive suggests his death was caused by substances in his system rather than diseased or damaged organs, according to New York-based forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, who is not involved with the investigation.

During an autopsy, Welner said, medical examiners are "looking for mechanisms of disease; the diseased heart, diseased lungs." These investigations take less time to complete than toxicological tests, which could reveal effects of drugs and other substances on the body.

A makeshift memorial of flowers and farewell notes was left outside the downtown Manhattan apartment building where the actor died Tuesday, as fans around the world and family members mourned the death of the Australian star.

Ledger, 28, was found naked and face down on the floor of his rented Soho loft Tuesday with several bottles of prescription drugs nearby.

Police told ABC News that the medications may have played a part in the death, which appeared to be accidental.

The death of Ledger stunned his fans and friends. A small display of flowers and candles were set up outside the apartment building along with farewell notes. One message read, "I couldn't find anything bad about you."

The actress Michelle Williams, the mother of Ledger's 2-year-old daughter, Matilda, left Sweden where she was filming a new movie yesterday with their daughter to return to New York. Williams, 27, played Ledger's wife in "Brokeback Mountain." The two were engaged but separated last year.

"She received the news at her hotel late last night," said Martin Stromberg, a spokesman for film production company Memfis Film.

Ledger's body was discovered at 3:31 p.m. by a masseuse who arrived at the apartment for an appointment with him, police sources said. The masseuse was let in by a housekeeper, who then knocked on the door of Ledger's bedroom.

When no one answered, the housekeeper and the masseuse opened the bedroom and found the actor unconscious at the foot of the bed, naked and face-down. The housekeeper and masseuse shook Ledger, but he did not respond. They then called the authorities, according to police.

Police added that they did not suspect foul play. Initial reports claimed actress Mary-Kate Olsen owned the apartment Ledger was found in, but police denied that the residence was Olsen's. A police source later said the maid or the housekeeper called Olsen and her security team responded to the apartment on Broome Street.

They said it was not clear who owned the apartment, but Ledger appeared to be a resident.

The superintendent of the building, Tamba Mossa, told ABCNEWS.com that Ledger had "been renting the apartment for about four months" but he didn't know who owned the residence. Mossa added that he was surprised to learn about Ledger's death, saying the actor had always been "very nice" and would often go on walks with his young daughter.

"We are all deeply saddened and shocked by this accident," Ledger's publicity agent said in a statement. "This is an extremely difficult time for his loved ones and we are asking the media to please respect the family's privacy and avoid speculation until the facts are known."

Ledger's family read a statement outside their home in Perth, Australia, Wednesday.

"We, Heath's family, can confirm the very tragic, untimely and accidental passing of our dearly loved son, brother and doting father of Matilda," his father Kim said.

Hollywood Reacts

News of Ledger's death hit Hollywood fast.

Two hours after his death was first reported, Nicole Kidman, who hails from Ledger's home country of Australia, released a statement to reporters saying, "What a tragedy. My heart goes out to his family."

"I had such great hope for him," Mel Gibson said in a statement to reporters. Gibson and Ledger worked together in 2000's "The Patriot."

"He was just taking off and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss," he continued. "My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."

Promising Career Cut Short

Ledger is probably best known for starring in 2005's "Brokeback Mountain," about two cowboys who fall in love. He earned Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for that role.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone's film critic, believes "Brokeback" will likely be the movie for which Ledger is remembered.

"He wanted to be an actor, not just a movie star," Travers said. "'Brokeback' was one of the greatest performances of an actor from his generation."

Later this year, Ledger is slated to appear as the Joker in "The Dark Knight," the latest film in the Batman franchise. In a November interview with The New York Times, he revealed how he'd thrown himself into the role, saying, "Last week, I probably slept an average of two hours a night. … I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.''

According to the newspaper, he was taking the sleep medication Ambien to get rest, but to no avail. And according to celebrity news service TMZ.com, Ledger was ill at the time of his death.

"We know he had pneumonia," managing editor Harvey Levin told ABC News' "Nightline."

There had been other reports of drug use, and some say his appearance had been slipping lately.

"Unkempt would be the word that would come to people's mind," said Us Weekly editor in chief Janice Min. "You know that could be the sign of an eccentric actor or maybe the sign of something amiss."

Ledger may be the second young actor to die from drug-related causes in 2008. On Jan. 15, actor Brad Renfro, 25, was found dead in his Los Angeles home. Though his cause of death has yet to be determined, he had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and had been arrested multiple times for drug possession.

Additional reporting contributed by Richard Esposito, Russell Goldman and The Associated Press.