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Liberace Entombed; Autopsy Tests for AIDS Are Incomplete

February 08, 1987|DEAN MURPHY and DAVID HALDANE | Times Staff Writers

Liberace, whose death Wednesday in Palm Springs has been overshadowed by rumors that he was suffering from AIDS, was entombed in Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, on Saturday, shortly before the Riverside County coroner announced that initial autopsy results failed to show whether the resplendent pianist died from the disease.

Coroner Raymond Carrillo, who ordered the autopsy Friday after Liberace's body had already been embalmed at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, said Saturday that medical examiners will need two more days to complete tests that will determine the cause of death.

"The outcome of the post-mortem examination was left pending the result of the toxicological analysis and microscopic tissue studies," said Carrillo, who scheduled a press conference for Monday afternoon to announce the results of those tests.

Sabas Rosas, a Riverside coroner's supervisor, told The Times on Friday that medical records subpoenaed from Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage showed that Liberace tested positive for exposure to the AIDS virus before he died. Exposure to the virus, however, does not necessarily mean that Liberace had actually developed AIDS.

Carrillo said Saturday that the toxicological and tissue tests "will determine whether he had AIDS or just the virus."

Forest Lawn returned Liberace's body to Riverside County on Friday morning after Carrillo questioned Liberace's personal physician's determination that the entertainer died from heart failure brought on by subacute encephalopathy, a general term for degenerative brain disease.

Friends and associates of Liberace have repeatedly denied that the pianist had developed AIDS, although a Las Vegas newspaper quoting unnamed sources reported last month that he was suffering from the disease. Dr. Ronald Daniels, Liberace's physician who pronounced him dead, has not returned calls from The Times.

Carrillo said Saturday that Liberace's body was "immediately released" to Forest Lawn after a 90-minute autopsy Friday night to accommodate plans for the private entombment Saturday afternoon. A Forest Lawn spokesman had said that the ceremony would be delayed because of the unexpected autopsy, but it was held as scheduled.

About 20 close friends and family members attended the services as a small group of reporters and fans looked on from behind rope barriers.

"I've seen so many of his live performances in Las Vegas that I wanted to come and say goodby," said Orville Paulson, 57, of Bell, who said he was visiting his mother's grave nearby and happened on the scene. "We thought a lot of him. It's sad. We've lost someone there is no duplicate for--he was a fantastic performer."

Affection Not Diminished

Most of the fans said their affection was not diminished by reports that Liberace had died of AIDS.

"If you're a supporter, you don't care how he died," said Kim Alexander, 22, who had come from Anaheim Hills with her mother, Doris.

Added the mother: "Regardless of what he may have done in his private life, he was a very good and generous man and that's what we want to remember him for."

After the brief service, which Forest Lawn officials said had included an open-casket viewing, onlookers were allowed to approach the crypt in which the entertainer had been entombed with his mother, Frances, who died in 1980, and brother, George, who died in 1983. The crypt is in the Courts of Remembrance section of the cemetery, which also contains the graves of comedian Freddie Prinze and actors Charles Laughton and George Raft.

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