Investigators: Robin Williams hanged himself
Peter Fimrite, Evan Sernoffsky and Henry K. Lee
Updated 12:20 pm, Tuesday, August 12, 2014
(08-12) 12:05 PDT TIBURON — Actor and comedian Robin Williams committed suicide by hanging himself with a belt at his Tiburon home and was discovered by his personal assistant, authorities said Tuesday.
The assistant became concerned about 11:45 a.m. Monday after Williams, 63, failed to answer knocks at his bedroom door, said Marin County sheriff’s Lt. Keith Boyd, the assistant chief deputy coroner.
Williams’ wife had left the home about 10:30 a.m., believing he was still sleeping, Boyd said.
The assistant entered the room and found Williams, clothed, in a seated position and “unresponsive with a belt secured around his neck, with the other end of the belt wedged between the clothes closet door and the door frame,” Boyd said. “His right shoulder area was touching the door, with his body perpendicular to the door and slightly suspended.”
Williams was “cold to the touch,” Boyd said. He had last been seen alive by his wife about 10:30 p.m. Sunday, when she retired to a bedroom, Boyd said. Williams was in a separate room, he said.
Investigators found some superficial cuts on the inside of Williams’ left wrist. They also found a pocketknife with its blade closed and what was believed to be dried blood on it, Boyd said.
The beloved performer, who had been seeking treatment for depression, apparently died of “asphyxia due to hanging,” Boyd said.
The autopsy, conducted Tuesday by a Marin County sheriff’s forensic pathologist at a Napa County morgue, did not reveal any evidence of a struggle or a physical altercation, Boyd said.
Boyd would not discuss whether any suicide note was left. He offered condolences to Williams’ family on behalf of his agency.
Toxicology testing, which could take two to six weeks, will determine whether Williams had any chemical substances in his system at the time of his death, Boyd said. The final cause of death won’t be finalized until after all testing is done, he said.
Williams had recently battled severe depression, said Mara Buxbaum, his press agent. He had fought cocaine and alcohol addiction, but had spoken little about mental illness.
This summer, Williams admitted himself into the Hazelden rehab center in Minnesota to “fine-tune” his sobriety, according to representatives.
The news of Williams’ death shocked the nation and the world, with fans flocking to his Tiburon home, his former home in the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco and the Pacific Heights house where “Mrs. Doubtfire” was filmed to leave flowers and messages.
Noreen Nieder, 51, of Tiburon was among those who paid their respects outside Williams’ home on Tuesday.
“He was always really nice to the kids in the neighborhood,” Nieder said. “He was always a neighbor. He didn’t act like a celebrity.”
Nieder, who frequently saw Williams riding his bike, said he always welcomed trick-or-treaters on Halloween. “I think he always just felt comfortable here,” she said.
A somber Brandon Antonio, 13, dropped off flowers after being driven to the home by his father. “My favorite movie was ‘Jumanji,’ ” Brandon said. “That was a really great one.”
Agne Correll brought her 7-year-old daughter, Aya, and also left flowers. Correll said Williams, with coffee in hand, often stopped by the Mill Valley gallery she owns. “He was an amazing person, a regular guy,” Correll said. “I just wanted to say goodbye.”
Dozens of television crews gathered in front of the home, including from stations in Brazil, Japan, Norway and England.
The sheriff’s office, unaccustomed to such high-profile cases, was expected to be inundated by the media Tuesday, so much so that authorities issued a press release with instructions on how to reach its headquarters in a commercial building on a leafy street in San Rafael.
President Obama, in a statement, said Williams was “an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a nod to Williams’ support for U.S. troops, said in a statement, “From entertaining thousands of service men and women in war zones, to his philanthropy that helped veterans struggling with hidden wounds of war, he was a loyal and compassionate advocate for all who serve this nation in uniform.”
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said Williams’ death was a “profound loss” for the city.
“Despite his success, he has never forgotten San Francisco,” Lee wrote. “He was a philanthropist who gave generously, and he was a friend of the city.”
Peter Fimrite, Evan Sernoffsky and Henry K. Lee are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @henryklee, @evansernoffsky @pfimrite