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Saturday, July 23, 2022

When a "Celebrity" Dies

     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 suspicious deaths every year that should but do not receive autopsies because of the shortage of forensic pathologists.) In Hollywood, to die suddenly without an autopsy is a posthumous insult.

     It's easy to understand, for example, why Natalie Wood's sudden and unexpected drowning 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 accident he killed the story. Decades later the Natalie Wood case regularly raises its head in the tabloids as a potential murder.

     If a wife from Buffalo New York fell 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 engender a cursory investigation then slip into permanent oblivion.

     The regular re-opening of the Natalie Wood case has been more of a tabloid media event than a serious cold case homicide investigation. It's more about entertainment than the administration of justice.

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