September 5, 2016
By Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.
On December 9, 2009, actress Brittany Murphy died of a lung infection which turned out to be Staphyloccoccus aureus, a very common bacteria that a healthy system should be able to keep in check.
The cause of death was stated by the coroner to have been pneumonia, with secondary factors of anemia and multiple drug intoxication (involving hydrocodone and other drugs prescribed to treat her respiratory infection).
Five months later, the late actress’s husband, Simon Monjack, died while still living in the same house. His death was stated by the coroner to have been caused by the same thing – pneumonia and severe anemia.
Brittany Murphy had starred in a number of motion pictures, including “Clueless,” “Girl, Interrupted” and “8 Mile.” She was age 32 at the time of her death.
At first, the idea that toxic mold had been involved in the deaths appeared to be dismissed by all concerned. The coroner stated that the involvement of mold had been considered and ruled out, and Brittany Murphy’s mother, Sharon Murphy, called the idea “absurd.”
A few years later, after consulting with professionals while working on selling the house, Sharon Murphy stated that she had changed her mind and that she had come to believe that toxic mold may have been a factor in the deaths.
Murphy had frequently stated that she disliked the house and wished she didn’t have to spend time in it, and Monjack had investigated whether mold might have been a problem in the home prior to Murphy’s death.
Monjack had suffered from frequent seizures, asthma and sleep apnea while living in the home, and Sharon Murphy acquired breast cancer and debilitating neuropathy while living there.
Brittany Murphy had been taking migraine medication, Klonopin (a benzodiazapine) and Prozac (an antidepressant), in addition to the medication for the respiratory infection, while living there.
In August 2014, the UK television program Autopsy ran an hour-long program looking at Brittany Murphy’s death, called “Autopsy: The Final Hours of Brittany Murphy.” The program features assessments about celebrity deaths by Dr. Richard Shepherd, a forensic pathologist.
A streaming version of the program (Season 2, Episode 3 of the “Autopsy” series) is currently available for purchase through Amazon in the UK.
The program content was summarized in an article in the Daily Mail.
In the documentary, Simon Monjack’s mother, Linda Monjack, stated about the home:
When I walked through the door, there was no air ventilation whatsoever. The windows were breaking down from mold. This was a place of unhealthiness. It didn’t feel right. The actual bedroom itself where they both spent so much time – the actual windows were taped up, so there was no air ventilation whatsoever. The mold that was growing up by the windows was really quite horrific and it just felt very oppressive, as if this was a place of unhealthiness.
Dr. Shepherd stated:
The autopsy report shows that they didn’t find any fungi, either in her bloodstream or in the sections of lung that they examined under the microscope. So mold and fungi haven’t played a direct role in the death of Brittany. But living in poor housing conditions like that, it’s likely to have had a debilitating effect and contributed to her infection and death….She apparently was living in appalling conditions.
In June 2016, Sharon Murphy put the home on the real estate market for $18.4 million. It was stated as having been wholly renovated from the “ground up” and looked very different from the outside from the previous residence.
Mold Inspection Pro – June 30, 2016
East Bay Times – June 28, 2016
US Weekly – June 27, 2016
Nicki Swift – June 2016
Daily Mail – May 13, 2016
E! – March 24, 2016
Mirror – August 6, 2014
Daily Mail – August 5, 2014
The Hollywood Reporter – November 25, 2013
CNN – November 20, 2013
The Wrap – November 19, 2013
Daily Mail – March 29, 2013
Know the Cause – December 7, 2012
Celebrity Diagnosis – December 21, 2011
Mother Nature Network – December 20, 2011
The Daily Beast – December 20, 2011
The Hollywood Reporter – December 19, 2011
Huffington Post – December 19, 2011
The Hollywood Reporter – January 11, 2011
ABC News – July 28, 2010
CNN – July 26, 2010
LA Times – July 26, 2010
People – July 26, 2010
E News – July 26, 2010
Links on this page are in orange (no underlining).