Shocking Things Discovered After Brittany Murphy's Death

When Brittany Murphy was found dead at age 32 on Dec. 20, 2009, the news sent shock waves through the entertainment community. Reports about Murphy's struggles with her inner demons soon surfaced, and when the cause of death was announced — pneumonia, anemia, and multiple drug intoxication – her story began to read like another cautionary tale about Hollywood's prescription drug problem.

But in the months following her untimely passing, the actress' death took a series of turns that not even the best screenwriters in Hollywood could have written. What started as an open-and-shut case transformed into anything but, and to this day, questions linger about what really happened in the chaotic days leading up to Murphy's death and in the controversial response that ensued.

The coroner said her death was preventable

When the cause of Brittany Murphy's death was revealed in February 2010, Assistant Chief Ed Winter of the Los Angeles coroner's office told People that the actress' death could have been prevented. "Murphy was planning on seeing a doctor, but she unfortunately passed away before she did," Winter said. "This was a case of a person with pneumonia who was anemic (having a low blood count) who was taking medication when she should've been getting medical treatment." Winter confirmed that the primary cause of death was pneumonia and that no illegal drugs were found in her system. 

According to CNN, Murphy's death was officially ruled accidental. The "elevated levels" of over-the-counter and prescription drugs she had taken reportedly had adverse effects on her "weakened state." Murphy's husband, producer Simon Monjack, told People that Murphy had visited a doctor and was on antibiotics, but Winter disputed Monjack's version of events, telling People that the last time Murphy saw a doctor was "awhile ago." 

So who was telling the truth: the coroner's office or Murphy's husband?

Her husband had a questionable past

For the record, authorities have never considered Simon Monjack a suspect in Brittany Murphy's death. However, his past still became the subject of intense scrutiny. According to the New York Post, Monjack had a sordid history of alleged credit card fraud, evictions, and financial troubles. His supposed rush to the altar with Murphy also raised the eyebrows of several of her friends.

While he's often referred to as a British filmmaker, Monjack's resumé is sparse. In fact, one of his few credits was achieved by suing the makers of 2006's Factory Girl, claiming they stole his script. Following Murphy's death, director George Hickenlooper reportedly unloaded on Monjack in since-deleted comments on the movie site Hollywood-Elsewhere. "Simon Monjack did not produce Factory Girl," Hickenlooper reportedly wrote (via Movieline.) "He sued his way onto the project for a title and stole 150K out of my budget. He is a con man and a bad guy. When Brittany married him I warned her and warned her as did so many others. I only hope to God that this creep wasn't instrumental in her sad sad demise. What a wonderful wonderful girl she was. I really really cared for her."

Hickenlooper supposedly attempted to contact Murphy before her death, but Monjack allegedly wouldn't allow it. "I thought he might take her for all her money," Hickenlooper reportedly wrote (via Movieline.) "Little did I know she would end up dead."

He launched a sketchy charity with Murphy's mom

In February 2010, barely two months after Brittany Murphy's death, Monjack and Murphy's mother, Sharon Murphy, attempted to launch the Brittany Murphy Foundation by hosting a charity event. According to TMZ, Monjack raised suspicions when word got out that he was charging a donation of $1,000 per person just to attend. The situation became even shadier when Monjack abruptly cancelled the event and claimed there was "an illness in the family," the tab reported.

Two weeks later, TMZ reported that the Brittany Murphy Foundation had not filed the proper paperwork to be listed as a nonprofit organization, meaning it could not solicit charitable donations. As if things weren't fishy enough, when TMZ attempted to reach Monjack for comment, the foundation website went offline. Eventually, the site returned with a new message promising to return donations until "we have our non-profit status approved before proceeding to insure that we can truly honor Brittany's charitable desires."

In an interview with People, Sharon took the blame for the philanthropic fiasco. "My daughter and I always talked about doing that. It wasn't Simon," she said. "I wanted to be clear about that." Sharon and Monjack claimed the whole thing was a mix-up exacerbated by their grief and lack of experience with nonprofit work, but the failed fundraiser was only the beginning of the complex mystery surrounding the actress's death. 

Monjack died exactly the same way as Murphy

On May 23, 2010, Sharon Murphy found Simon Monjack dead in Brittany Murphy's Hollywood home — where Sharon and Monjack had continued to live following Brittany's death. As if Monjack's death occurring within six months of his wife's wasn't strange enough, according to ABC News, an autopsy revealed that he died of the exact same causes as Murphy: "acute pneumonia and severe anemia." The only difference was that Monjack's death reportedly didn't involve "drug intoxication."

Needless to say, a husband and wife dying of the same medical issues within a year of one another added to the mounting speculation surrounding Brittany's death, but more suspicious details would soon develop.

Monjack allegedly drained Brittany's bank accounts

Two months after Monjack's death, Brittany Murphy's former business manager, Jeffrey Morgenroth, told People that Simon Monjack had allegedly drained Murphy's finances by 80 percent before he died. "There were huge amounts of money in [Brittany's] pension plan and bank account, and all of that's gone," Morgenroth said. "I would see it on the statements. There was money being withdrawn by Simon, hundreds of thousands."

Morgenroth's assistant also claimed that Monjack's mother ordered Brittany's mom to leave the Hollywood home that Sharon Murphy and Monjack had shared. 

Monjack and Sharon slept in the same bed

In August 2010, TMZ reported a tidbit of information that raised even more questions about Brittany Murphy's death. According to the coroner's report for Simon Monjack's death, Sharon Murphy allegedly told investigators that she shared a bed with Monjack.

Just so we're clear: Brittany's mom was supposedly sleeping in the same bed as her widowed son-in-law. However, according to TMZ, the coroner's report "doesn't suggest sexual contact between the two," which doesn't exactly make things less bizarre.

Was mold a fatal factor?

With Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack both dead from the same causes, mold in the couple's Hollywood home was suspected. According to TMZ, investigators had already considered mold a factor after the actress' death, but like everything surrounding the case, things took a weird turn.

While responding to a CNN report about speculation that mold could have contributed to both Murphy and Monjack's deaths, coroner Ed Winter said there were "no indicators" that viral mold was a factor. However, in a strange twist, Sharon Murphy issued a statement that said she had "never been personally asked by the Coroner or anyone from the Health Department to come and inspect my home for mold." Winter said that was "an absolute lie," insisting that he had talked with Monjack, Sharon, and their lawyer about mold during the investigation. 

Why would Sharon potentially lie about investigators checking the house for mold? Who knows? But one person was becoming very suspicious, and he was determined to get some answers.

An independent lab suggested she was poisoned

In 2013, Brittany Murphy's father, Angelo Bertolotti, released the results of an independent lab report that suggested his daughter's death was not an accident. According to Bertolotti, his daughter was poisoned. "I have a feeling that there was a definite murder situation here," he told ABC News, which reported the independent lab results.

"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," the report read. "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." However, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office stood by its results, and a toxicologist at the University of Florida told ABC News that hair test results "cannot be used to support any allegation of poisoning, and cannot be used to establish a cause and manner of death." 

That didn't stop Bertolotti from pursuing the murder angle, and he already had a prime suspect.

Her dad accused her mom of murder

In a 2014 interview with the Examiner (via Jezebel), Angelo Bertolotti made it explicitly clear that he believes his ex-wife murdered their daughter. "Let her explain why she had my daughter execute a will, leaving everything to her mother and specifically excluding Simon," Bertolotti said. "Let Sharon explain why she decided to do this right after Brittany and Simon told her of their plan to move to New York and have a baby. Let Sharon clarify how she was planning to support herself for the first time in decades, once Brittany moved away. Let her talk about auctioning off Brittany's underwear, passport, SAG card and clothes. There are many unanswered questions that have to be addressed. Out of three people living together in the same house, only one survives and benefits financially."

In 2016, Radar reported that Bertolotti's health had forced him to give up suing the Los Angeles Police Department and coroner's office for the right to exhume his daughter's remains to attempt to prove she was poisoned. According to family members, Bertolotti still believes Sharon is responsible for Brittany's death, but "he's got to move on with his life." 

Bertolotti died on Jan. 22, 2019. He was 92. 

The house was littered with 'empty pill bottles'

When E! News spoke to coroner Ed Winter in 2016, he offered some new insight into the deaths of Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack. Specifically, he suggested that drugs may have played a bigger role than was initially believed.

"We took almost 90 empty pill bottles out of [the] bedroom," Winter said. "They were in Simon's name and aliases. It was like, Who has that many pill boxes? He popped pills. When we went back when Simon died, there were a bunch of prescriptions again."

No one knows what really happened

While official reports point to Brittany Murphy dying from pneumonia, anemia, and an adverse reaction from prescription drugs, there are more questions than answers about how she found herself in that predicament and what was really going on in her Hollywood home. Her husband had a checkered past and allegedly maintained "tight control" over the actress and her finances, according to People. Meanwhile, Radar reported in 2016 that her mother, Sharon Murphy, essentially vanished after her ex-husband started investigating their daughter's death. 

Though the actress' death was officially ruled an accident, after everything that's transpired since her passing, it's no surprise that lingering questions and suspicions remain.