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Ex-Host of 'Family Feud' Had Attempted Suicide

Death: Ray Combs, upset over marital and career problems, was found hanged in closet of his hospital room Sunday.


GLENDALE — Distraught over marital problems and recent career setbacks, former game show host Ray Combs tried to commit suicide at least twice last week before he succeeded in hanging himself in a hospital room, authorities said Monday.

Police said Combs, 40, who hosted "The New Family Feud" from 1988 to 1994, was found dead in a closet, hanging from a bedsheet, at about 4 a.m. Sunday at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

Sgt. Rick Young said Combs was admitted to the hospital Saturday on "72-hour mental evaluation hold" after police responded to a report that Combs was trashing the inside of his family's house, located on Sonora Avenue near the Kenneth Village section of Glendale.

"When the officers arrived, they contacted Mr. Combs at the front door. He was bleeding from the head and told them that he had hit his head accidentally on the hot tub," Young said.

But after talking to Combs' wife, Debra, officers learned that Combs had been briefly hospitalized for injuries suffered in a suicide attempt earlier in the week.

Police decided to put Combs on suicide watch at the hospital after determining that his head injury was caused not by a slip and fall accident, but by his own repeated banging of his head against walls, Young said.

Police and hospital officials said they will conduct a full investigation to determine the exact cause of Combs' death. Combs left no suicide note.

Combs, an Ohio native and a former Mormon missionary and stand-up comedian, was replaced by his predecessor, Richard Dawson, on the popular TV game show in 1994 after a six-year stint as its host. Later in 1994, he suffered a swollen spinal disk and temporary paralysis resulting from an auto accident.

More recently, he made a failed attempt at a TV comeback on "The Love Psychic," a short-lived game show. He also closed two comedy clubs he owned in Cincinnati due to problems with business partners.

Police said Monday they believed Combs had become intensely upset over his pending divorce. The couple, who recently separated and have six children ranging from elementary school-age to teenage, had filed for divorce more than a year ago and then reconciled, but had recently refiled for divorce, police said.

On Saturday, police said, Combs visited a friend in Los Angeles, who described Combs as "in a rage." Combs left the friend's house, saying he was going to his Glendale home "to hurt his wife and destroy the place," and the friend alerted Glendale police, Young said.

When Combs arrived at the house, his wife and children were not home, but he proceeded to overturn furniture. The officers who took Combs into custody described the celebrity as calm, but said he refused to answer any questions, Young said.


The next day, police received a call from the hospital, saying that an orderly checking on Combs found him hanged in a closet in his room at about 4:10 a.m. Sunday .

Hospital officials refused to comment on Combs' death Monday, saying the hospital was barred by "federal and state laws governing the release of patient information," and that they wished to respect Combs' family's privacy.

Young said a suicide watch requires that the hospital staff evaluate the patient and take the "necessary precautions" to ensure safety, and does not normally involve around-the-clock supervision of the patient.

Times staff writer Efrain Hernandez contributed to this story.

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