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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Suspicious Celebrity Death Cases: The Entertainment Value of Murder

     In California, by law, any time a "celebrity" dies suddenly and unexpectedly, the body must undergo an autopsy. This is because of the media, and the disturbing fact that in America, celebrities are more important than the rest of us. (There are thousands of legitimately suspicious deaths in this country every year that do not receive autopsies because of the shortage of forensic pathologists.) In Hollywood, to die suddenly without an autopsy has become a posthumous insult.

     It's easy to understand, for example, why Natalie Wood's sudden and unexpected death in 1981 made headlines. She was a beautiful and famous Hollywood actress, and her husband, a potential suspect in the case, was also a star. This celebrity death had all the makings of an O.J.-like media spectacle. But, when "Coroner to the Stars" Dr. Thomas Noguchi ruled the death an accidental drowning, he killed the story. Now, decades later, the Natalie Wood case regularly raises its head in the tabloids as a potential murder.

     If, in 1981, a housewife from Buffalo, New York had fallen off a boat into Lake Erie after arguing with her accountant husband, only a handful of people would have heard about the death in the local media. At best this death would have engendered a cursory investigation, then slipped into permanent oblivion.

     The regular re-opening of the Natalie Wood case has been more of a media event that a serious cold case homicide investigation. It's more for our entertainment than it is for the administration of justice. It's time we let this poor woman rest in peace.

   

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