Riverside County officials have rejected Liberace's death certificate and plan to perform an autopsy on the entertainer, who died Wednesday amid reports that he had been suffering from AIDS.
Coroner Ray Carillo and Sabas Rosas, who heads the coroner's office in Indio, are specifically questioning the word of Liberace's personal physician, Dr. Ronald Daniels, who signed his death certificate, listing as the cause of death heart failure brought on by subacute encephalopathy, a general term for degenerative brain disease. Daniels could not be reached for comment today.
Riverside health officials also found fault with reports that Liberace died at home without a physician in attendance and that the body was removed from Riverside County to Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Hollywood Hills without permission of the coroner's office.
"If there is suspicion of infectious disease they have to contact us," Rosas said.
Rosas said a test done on a sample of Liberace's blood at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage "came back positive" with signs that he had been exposed to the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, although not everyone who has been exposed will necessarily become ill with AIDS.
Carillo said the body was being returned to the coroner's office this afternoon. "We will conduct an autopsy and review the medical records with forensic pathologists," Carillo said. "We won't have a cause of death immediately."
Private entombment services for the entertainer had been scheduled for "sometime this weekend," said Dick Fisher, a spokesman for Forest Lawn. "Now, we don't know when these services will be. We don't know how fast the coroner will act."
A newspaper in Las Vegas, quoting unnamed sources had reported earlier that the pianist was suffering from AIDS. At the time, Liberace's agent, Seymour Heller, vehemently denied the allegation, demanded a retraction and threatened to sue the Las Vegas Sun for libel, but the paper stood by its story.