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Autopsy finds child actor Corey Haim died of pneumonia

He also had an enlarged heart and some badly blocked blood vessels. Contrary to early police reports of an 'accidental overdose,' the autopsy finds low levels of drugs in his system.

May 05, 2010|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

Contrary to speculation that actor Corey Haim died of a drug overdose, the Los Angeles County coroner's office announced Tuesday that the former child actor died of pneumonia.

Neither illegal nor prescription drugs were a factor in the actor's death, the coroner's office found — a marked contrast to early reports from authorities.

The autopsy found that Haim, 38, died of respiratory distress related to pneumonia with the presence of an enlarged heart and narrowing blood vessels. Low levels of eight drugs, some prescription and others over-the-counter, were found in his system along with a tiny amount of marijuana, according to the autopsy report.

"The medications did not contribute acutely to his death, therefore the manner of death is natural," Deputy Medical Examiner Juan M. Carrillo stated in his report. The 38-year-old actor's heart was abnormally large — nearly twice the weight of a normal heart — and some vessels were as much 75% blocked, according to the report.

Haim collapsed shortly after midnight March 10. As his mother helped him back into bed, his eyes rolled back in his head and she called 911. Paramedics took Haim from his Barham Boulevard apartment to Burbank's Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where he died. Haim had complained of serious flu-like symptoms for a couple of days before his death.

Los Angeles Police Department officials had said the star of "The Lost Boys" and "Lucas," with a long history of prescription drug use, appeared to have died of an "accidental overdose."

Within days of his death, Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown cited Haim as "the poster child" of the problem of prescription drug abuse. The attorney general said his investigators found evidence that Haim received drugs from an illegal prescription mill and then revealed that the actor was "doctor shopping" for medications in the weeks before his death.

In the months before his death, Brown said, Haim obtained at least 553 pills of powerful prescription medications, including painkillers such as Oxycontin, from seven doctors and as many different pharmacies. Brown said Haim visited physicians at offices, urgent-care facilities and emergency rooms to obtain the potentially deadly collection of pills and on one occasion used an alias.

A spokeswoman for Brown, who is now running for governor, did not return calls Tuesday to discuss the autopsy findings.

Coroner's tests found no Oxycontin in Haim's body. They did find ibuprofen and prescription medications such as a generic version of Valium. The autopsy noted that Haim had been in and out of rehab for prescription drug use.

Investigators recovered several bottles of prescription medications, mostly empty, from his bedroom. Haim's mother told authorities after his death that she had emptied the bottles in the toilet so no one else could get the medication.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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