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Mix of Alcohol, Drugs Found in Brynn Hartman’s Blood

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Brynn Hartman’s blood contained traces of alcohol, cocaine and a prescription antidepressant drug when she killed herself hours after executing her sleeping husband, comic actor Phil Hartman, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office reported Monday.

Coroner’s officials found no drugs in Phil Hartman’s blood.

Brynn Hartman had a blood-alcohol level of .12%--well above the .08% that is the state’s legal definition of drunk in driving cases--but Coroner’s Chief Investigator Craig Harvey said he could not be sure at what time she had been drinking. Harvey also said her blood tested positive for cocaine, which she had ingested within five hours of her death May 28.

Therapeutic levels of Zoloft, a prescription drug similar to Prozac and lithium, was also found in her blood, Harvey said.

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Taken together, the three substances amplify each other’s effects and could cause a very intense high, coroner’s officials said.

The results of the toxicology tests were much anticipated following friends’ reports that Brynn Hartman had struggled with narcotic addiction in the past and had checked into a drug treatment program as recently as a year ago.

Los Angeles police, who say they are “winding down” their investigation of the murder-suicide, have also been awaiting the report. “Obviously investigators will look at [the toxicology results] as they complete their investigation,” said Cmdr. David Kalish, an LAPD spokesman.

As they made public the toxicology report, Harvey and coroner’s spokesman Scott Carrier sharply criticized police for failing to notify the coroner’s office of the Hartman deaths for six hours after the initial 911 call.

“We were notified by the City [News] wire service, not the LAPD,” Harvey said. “We would like to be notified sooner than that.”

After they heard about the deaths, coroner’s officials called LAPD West Valley detectives.

“They told us: ‘We’re not ready for you yet,’ ” Harvey said.

Harvey said about 15% of all deaths investigated by the LAPD are reported to the coroner’s office after a substantial delay. “We are concerned that this doesn’t become a real issue that would compromise the success of future investigations,” Carrier said.

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The LAPD’s Kalish disagreed. “We followed procedures,” he said.

A bartender at an Encino restaurant less than a block away from the Hartman home said Brynn Hartman had a couple of drinks with a friend there the night before the murder-suicide but did not appear to be inebriated when she left.

Police say Brynn Hartman then went to her $1-million home and shot her husband in the predawn hours. She then left her two sleeping children and went to a friend’s house in Studio City for several hours. She and the friend, Ron Douglas, 44, returned to her home, where she locked herself in the bedroom with her husband’s body as Douglas called police.

Police say Brynn Hartman shot herself as her two young children were being shepherded out of the home.

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“The investigation continues,” Kalish said.


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