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Thai coroner seeks cause of David Carradine's death

By Kittipong Soonprasert

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai coroners completed an autopsy on the body of actor David Carradine Friday, a day after the star of 1970s-era U.S. television show "Kung Fu" was found naked and hanging dead in his luxury hotel room.

Coroners at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn hospital said they had not yet determined how the 72-year-old actor died and were waiting for the results of a toxicology screen. Police said it could take several weeks before the reason was known.

"We are now running tests and then we will decide the cause of death," the hospital's chief coroner, Nantana Sirisap, told Reuters. "This certainly was not a natural cause of death."

A maid found Carradine hanging naked by a rope in the closet of his hotel suite at the plush Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel Thursday, police said.

Initial reports indicated a possible suicide, but his family representatives in Los Angeles have repeatedly said the actor was not suicidal.

Representatives for Carradine also declined to comment on media reports that the death was related to autoerotic asphyxiation, which involves intentionally cutting off oxygen supply for strong sexual arousal. And a former lawyer for Carradine said she suspected foul play.

But investigators in Bangkok said there was no indication other people had been in the room where Carradine was staying while shooting the movie "Stretch." Police and forensics teams were still gathering evidence as of Friday.

"We are currently interviewing witnesses, film crew, hotel staff and the last person who saw David alive," Lumpini police chief Colonel Somprasong Yentuam told Reuters.

"So far, no one saw anyone enter David's room around the estimated time of death."

HAPPY IN HIS FINAL HOURS

A hotel employee, who gave her name as Oi, said Carradine was in good spirits in the final few hours he was seen alive.

"He was in the hotel lobby, relaxing and playing the piano -- he looked very happy," she told Reuters television.

Tiffany Smith of Carradine's Los Angeles-based talent manager Binder & Assoc. repeated assertions that the actor's family believes Carradine could not have committed suicide.

"It's not where he is in his life right now, he was completely full of life, extremely happy to be going to Bangkok and doing this film," she said.

Smith declined comment on media reports about the possibility of an accidental death by autoerotic asphyxiation, pending the police report.

When long-time family friend and Carradine's former lawyer Vicki Roberts, who represented the actor in a past divorce, was asked whether he had a history of using autoerotic asphyxiation, she replied: "No, absolutely not."

Roberts said details of the way the actor was found in his hotel caused her to suspect foul play, but she conceded she was only reading news accounts out of Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Smith said Carradine's family was making arrangements to have his body flown back to Los Angeles, but as of Friday there were no details on when that might occur.

Carradine is married to Annie Bierman and he comes from a family of performers, including actor Keith Carradine, whose father is the late character actor John Carradine.

He enjoyed a long career on Broadway, TV and in movies such as Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" and "Kill Bill: Vol. 2." But he was most famous for his role in "Kung Fu," playing a martial arts specialist known as Caine who wandered through the American Old West seeking wisdom and beating up bad guys.

(Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

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