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News Conference On Robin Williams's Death

Aired August 12, 2014 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me on this Tuesday. Got a big hour for you.

First of all, let me just set this up because any minute now investigators in California will be holding a news conference on the sudden and incredibly shocking death of the legendary Robin Williams. He was a comic legend, also a master of drama. So we are expecting new details today from investigators. They'll be revealing how the actor died.

Williams was found dead in his home in Tiburon, California. He was 63 years of age. And today, an autopsy is being carried out but authorities already suspect Williams took his own life after suffering from severe depression and addiction.

And right now, if you look with me, we have a picture of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame surrounded, flowers piling up, gifts, all in honor of his life, his work, and a career filled with countless awards and accolades. Fans dropping by to pay their respects and to celebrate this man. He was a classically trained actor, Julliard trained in fact, known for his high octane humor, his improv skills and characters from "Mrs. Doubtfire" to the eccentric professor in "Dead Poets Society."

But arguably his defining role was the one that landed him that Oscar, a carrying psychologist in the film "Good Will Hunting." The clip you're looking at, this was shot at a bench in Boston Common in downtown Boston. And so, today, that ground around the bench, through the day, as you can see, chalk marks on the sidewalk and some flowers and some greenery there on the bench in honor of the legendary Robin Williams, just fans dropping by.

Robin Williams leaves behind three children. And last night his daughter Zelda posted this message. She wrote, "I love you. I miss you. I'll try to keep looking up."

We are dedicating this next hour on this show of coverage to Robin Williams, to his life, to his storied career and his death. Plus, we'll be talking about depression. We'll be talking about suicide and calling attention to ways you or your loved ones can get help.

As I mentioned, we're waiting for this news conference to begin. We're watching the setting up, just about ready to roll here as we're watching for that. Ted Rowlands is live for us right now.

And, Ted, what exactly do we think investigators will reveal today?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, we're going to get some results from the autopsy. The autopsy started at 8:00 Pacific Time this morning. We just got an update actually that the news conference has been pushed back about five minutes. So we're expecting it to start in three to four minutes.


ROWLANDS: And what we're going to find out is the preliminary results of this autopsy, which has been completed. We'll find out likely the manner of death and some other details surrounding Robin Williams' death. We won't know anything about what is in his system. Toxicology, of course, takes much longer, three to six weeks before that information will come back. But we are expecting to get some details surrounding his death and we'll get them in the next few minutes.

The deputy coroner will be conducting the press conference. He apparently is on the phone right now with the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy. As soon as that phone conversation is completed, he will come out and address the media then.

BALDWIN: OK. We should just point out to our viewers, we have a lot of voices who will be sprinkled in through the show, people who knew him, people who worked with him and a doctor who's getting seated from Columbia University just to talk about really -- we'll have a very real chat about, you know, depression and suicide.

But can you just, Ted, for people who haven't read all the details, he was found yesterday and he was last with his wife Sunday night at their home.

ROWLANDS: Yes. And that adds to the shock of it all because you talk to people that were around him within the last year working on different projects, which we've been talking to over the last 24 hours, and everybody just completely shocked by the news that he was going through some turmoil. A man who made so many people so happy, was so sad inside. It's a layer of this story that is just absolutely depressing. And here up in the bay area where he has called home for so many years, it has really taken a toll. He was part of this community and this community is absolutely in mourning.

BALDWIN: Ted Rowlands, the country and all around the world in mourning today. Just in shock. But I feel like that, at this point, sounds cliche. Just didn't believe it when we saw the news. Ted Rowlands, we'll stay in contact with you.

I'm getting just about -- we're 60 seconds or so away from this news conference to begin there, Marin County, California, northern California, where Robin Williams and his family called home.

In the meantime, let me just let you know who just sat down next to me. This - oh - I'm - this is Dr. John Mann (ph), suicide researcher for Columbia Psychiatry. Dr. Mann, we'll talk in a moment. If you would, listen in to this with

me. Let's go straight to Marin County investigators.

LT. KEITH BOYD, ASSISTANT CHIEF DEPUTY CORONER: First of all, I would like to extend the condolences of the sheriff's office to the Williams' family before we begin.

I have a prepared statement and I ask that you will hold your questions until the end of the statement.

My last name is spelled b-o-y-d.

On August 11, 2014, at approximately 11:55 a.m., Marin County Communications received a 911 telephone call reporting that a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing inside his residence located at 95 St. Thomas Way in unincorporated Tiburon, California. The caller was distraught and indicated at that time that it was an apparent suicide due to a hanging had taken place and that rigor mortis had set in.

The sheriff's office, as well as representatives of the Tiburon Fire Department and Southern Marin Fire Protection District were dispatched to the incident with emergency personnel arriving on scene at 12:00 p.m. The male subject, who was pronounced deceased by firefighters from the Tiburon Fire Department at 12:02 p.m. has been identified as Robin McLaurin Williams, a 63-year-old resident of unincorporated Tiburon, California.

Preliminary information developed during the investigation by coroner division personnel has revealed Mr. Williams had been seeking treatment for depression. Mr. Williams was last seen alive by his wife at approximately 10:30 p.m. on August 10, 2014, when she retired for the evening in a room in the home. It is unknown at this time when Mr. Williams retired for the evening in a bedroom in his home. At approximately 10:30 a.m., on August 11, 2014, Mr. Williams' wife left the home believing Mr. Williams to still be asleep.

Mr. Williams' personal assistant became concerned at approximately 11:45 a.m. when he failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door. At that time, the personal assistant was able to gain access to Mr. Williams' bedroom and entered the bedroom to find Mr. Williams clothed in a seated position unresponsive with a belt secured around his neck with the other end of the belt wedged between the clothes closet door and the door frame. His right shoulder area was touching the door with his body perpendicular to the door and slightly suspended.

Mr. Williams, at that time, was cool to the touch with rigor mortis present in his body and livor mortis positioned appropriately for the position he was located in. The inside of Mr. Williams' left wrist had several acute superficial transverse cuts. A pocket knife with a closed blade was located in close proximity to Mr. Williams. The pocket knife was examined and a dry red material was located on the blade of the knife which appeared consistent to dried blood. It is unknown at this time if the dried red material is in fact blood or if it is Mr. Williams' blood but scientific testing will be conducted to evaluate its investigate value. Mr. Williams was transported from the scene to the Napa County

Sheriff's Office morgue by the coroner division pending a forensic examination which was conducted this morning prior to this press conference. The forensic examination conducted by Dr. Joseph Cohen (ph), who is the sheriff's office for Marin County's chief forensic pathologist did not reveal any injuries indicating Mr. Williams had been in a struggle or a physical altercation prior to him being located diseased. The preliminary - and I again say preliminary results of the forensic examination revealed supporting physical signs that Mr. Williams' life ended from asphyxia due to hanging.

Toxicology testing will be conducted to determine if Mr. Williams had any chemical substances in his system at the time of his death. Toxicology results will be available -- excuse me, will not be available for approximately two to six weeks while the testing is being performed. Please note that this is an active investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of Mr. Williams' death. The work of the coroner's office is not complete at this time. The final cause and manner of death will not be certified until the conclusion of the investigation, which is several weeks away. When the investigation is concluded and our final results are ready for dissemination, a press conference will be scheduled at that time.

Additionally, I have received numerous requests for copies of 911 and dispatch recordings, as well as investigative reports. Please note, each request will be handled in accordance with public record act (ph) guidelines with responses provided to those who have submitted them within 10 days. Media inquiries should be continued to be directed to me, Lieutenant Keith Boyd via my e-mail at I will respond to these inquiries time permitting as I receive them. Please keep in mind, at this time, the coroner's division is also investigating active cases from other residents in this community, so I will respond to your inquiries time permitting.

OK, that concludes my written statement at this time. And I will open up to take a few questions understanding that this is an active investigation and there is some information that will be withheld until a final press conference in several weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) The fact that there was rigor mortis that had set in. Does that give you more of an idea of timeline of when this incident may have taken place?

BOYD: Rigor mortis is a sign that will be evaluated in conjunction with the livor mortis, lividity, to try to correlate a time period that the death may have occurred, understanding that there is no perfect environment when you're talking about scientific studies and lividity and rigor mortis so we will use known facts to kind of try to surmise when the death may have occurred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant, was there any indication he left a note? Is there a note?

BOYD: We're not discussing the note or a note at this point as the investigation is ongoing and that information will be discussed at a future time at the concluding press conference. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant, were there any signs within the home of

drug or alcohol use?

BOYD: The investigation is ongoing. Toxicology testing will be conducted to determine if any chemical substances were in Mr. Williams' system at the time of his death. And at that time we'll have a determination as to whether or not there were any signs that he may have been under the influence or incapacitated by any other substance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) you said he was seated at the time, is that correct? Seated at that time?

BOYD: He was slightly suspended in a seated position. A copy of this transcript of this statement will be posted on the sheriff's office press page at the conclusion of this press conference so that way you have a copy of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rigor mortis (ph) -- can you just explain (INAUDIBLE) what rigor mortis (INAUDIBLE) lividity (ph)?

BOYD: Lividity. Lividity is the - is the pooling of human blood due to gravity. So as -- when you pass, your blood is no longer flowing through your remains. What happens is, it stops flowing and it starts to pool due to gravity and settles. There are signs and studies that indicate after a certain period of time when that settling is locked in. During early stages, lividity can be adjusted if remains are removed or not removed. The lividity in Mr. Williams was consistent to the - to the position he was found in.



BOYD: We're not going into that part of the investigation. What I will say is that she retired to bed. Mr. Williams' wife retired prior to Mr. Williams into a room in the home. It is not known exactly at this time when Mr. Williams retired for the evening, but he went to a different room of the home.



BOYD: What I would say is he's been treated for depression. Outside of that, at this time, we have some concerns about HIPPA protections, so we're a little slightly prohibited into getting into future aspects until the investigation progresses a little further.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said he was wearing -

BOYD: I had a question over here first.


BOYD: We're not releasing any information to that effect as the investigation is ongoing. We still have people we want to speak with and so there is some information we are going to withhold.


BOYD: There's somebody over here, a male? Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What other information about his health did you glean from your investigation and your examination (INAUDIBLE)?

BOYD: With what respect do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was his (INAUDIBLE) health before the suicide?

BOYD: Any other findings from the forensic examination specific to his health will be addressed at the future autopsy - I mean, excuse me, future press conference.


BOYD: That will all come to light at the future press conference. At this time, it's not a factor of what we're going to discuss relevant to what our findings were today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that he was fully clothed. Was he wearing the same cloths that he had been wearing previously?

BOYD: What I said was he was clothed. I didn't say fully clothed. I said he was clothed and that's what we're going to say. He had cloths on and that's how we're going to address that at this point until the investigation is concluded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were the cuts on his wrists recent?

BOYD: They were acute superficial. Acute is recent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that (INAUDIBLE) to say that (INAUDIBLE) and do you have at least an estimate of when he died?

BOYD: When you say -- can you explain what -- are you talking about the night - the -


BOYD: No. Superficial wounds were not the preliminary cause of death. The preliminary cause of death is asphyxia due to hanging.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then do you have an estimated time of when he may have died?

BOYD: The investigation is ongoing. Unfortunately, we still have to surmise based on things that we're going to look into, lividity, rigors, other factors, to try to come up with a generalized idea of when he passed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) a note? BOYD: That will be released at the future press conference when the

investigation is concluded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) my indicate that any troubling signs from Robin?

BOYD: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the interviews with the family, did they indicate any troubling signs from Robin?

BOYD: At this time, the investigation is ongoing. I'm not going to get into the specifics of our interviews and such because we still have more to conduct and we want to be able to have untainted information from individuals we may speak with versus saying what we already may know from those interviews.

One second.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Joseph Cohen (ph), can you just elaborate -

BOYD: Dr. Joseph Cohen is the chief forensic pathologist for the Marin County Sheriff's Office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many superficial wounds were there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said he was found seated. Was there a chair nearby? Was he in a chair or was he on the floor?

BOYD: He was not in a chair. He was suspended, as I indicated, from the belt, which was wedged between the door and the door frame in a seated position slightly suspended off the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) has the sheriff's department ever been at that home before and for what reason?

BOYD: At this time, I don't have that information, but to my knowledge we have not been to the home for previous contacts.

Hold on one sec.

Over here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many superficial wounds were there?

BOYD: We're not releasing the nature of how many superficial wounds they are, size, demotions or anything to that effect, other than saying at this time that they are superficial in nature only.


BOYD: The autopsy was conducted in Napa County primarily due to the Marin County Sheriff's Office does not possess a government morgue facility. We have a private contract with a local mortuary who the facilities are up to par with the government morgue, but it is not a government facility. And due to security concerns and the opportunity to ensure that we want to preclude images and other things, what may have occurred in that exam going public, we used a facility that we knew was secure.


BOYD: I've already addressed that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) wounds, were they on his wrists?

BOYD: As I said, they were on the inside of his left wrist.



BOYD: We're not getting into specific questions like that. Those statements can be asked at the future press conference.

Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was there anybody else at home in the house?

BOYD: Well, his personal assistant found him, so I'm not sure the -


BOYD: His wife went to sleep at 10:30 p.m. the prior evening.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the name of the assistant?

BOYD: We're not releasing that information at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, lieutenant, the only people that you believe were in the home when Mr. Williams died is his wife and (INAUDIBLE), correct?

BOYD: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The personal assistant arrived that morning?

BOYD: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were the children (INAUDIBLE) at home at the time?

BOYD: As this gentleman just asked, the only people we believe at this time to be in the home was Mr. Williams and Mr. Williams' wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was there a note left at the scene?

BOYD: I've already answered about the note. We're not discussing that at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said the wife left. When did she return? (INAUDIBLE).

BOYD: Mr. Williams' wife returned shortly after sheriff's office personnel arrived on scene and fire department personnel arrived on scene. She was aware of his passing at a very early time in this incident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And was it just coincidental that she returned at that time or that she wasn't there when -

BOYD: I'm not going to get into those specifics at this time.


BOYD: I'm going to take about five more questions and then we're going to move on.

So number one here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is it believed (ph) that sometime between 10:30 and when he was found in the morning (INAUDIBLE)?

BOYD: It's a reasonable summation that he passed between 10:30 p.m. when he was last seen alive and 12:00 when the fire department arrived on scene. What we'll be working on is trying to narrow that down, if it's possible.


BOYD: Correct.


BOYD: Two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give a little more detail on the room where he was found?

BOYD: No, sir, not at this time. It was inside the home at 95 St. Thomas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was he doing when his wife went to bed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant Boyd, as the investigation continues now, what exactly are you all looking for? Who are you hoping to speak with going forward?

BOYD: We want to -- in an investigation that's ongoing, although the primary -- preliminary indication right now in this case is a suicide, we want to be thorough. We want to make sure that we cover all our bases, dot all our I's, cross all our T's to make sure that we're not forgetting anything else. That we're not being presumptive and overlooking something that's critical in the case. So we're going to continue to review individuals who may have information that's pertinent to our case, medical information, medical history. It's a comprehensive standard coroner investigation. Mr. Williams' case is consistent with any investigation that we

conduct for any citizen who passes within the boundaries of Marin County. Unfortunately, due to the notoriety to Mr. Williams, that's why all of you are here today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're ruling out foul play (INAUDIBLE)?

BOYD: We will at the final conclusion of the - at the -- excuse me, yes, at the final press conference, we will make that final determination. But at this time, our indication is that it is a suicide due to asphyxia due to hanging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's preliminary -

BOYD: As I said, it's preliminary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens next with the body?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lieutenant Boyd, how -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was he doing at 10:30 (ph) at night? (INAUDIBLE) -

BOYD: I'm not going to release that information as to what Mr. Williams may have been doing at 10:30 last night when she went to bed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She went to bed - I just want to get this (INAUDIBLE). She went to bed. Then she left the home again and then returned to the home?

BOYD: Yes. She went to bed at approximately 10:30 p.m. She then left the home in the morning, as I indicated, and then she returned to the home once Mr. Williams was determined to be deceased.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know when she left the home in the morning?

BOYD: I've already stated that. It will be in the written statement.


BOYD: This - this woman here? No. Funeral arrangements. Funeral arrangements are a decision of the family and we are -- we are not going to comment on what the family's decisions are as to who they are using, how that's going to proceed. What I can tell you is that the remains are no longer at the Napa County Sheriff's Office at the -- and that's a family issue and we're not at liberty to release that information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you confiscated any of his computers or phones?


BOYD: Last question. Actually, one question after this. He was in a room in the home. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) a bedroom?

BOYD: He was in a room in the home at this time and that's all we're going to say.

Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it possible this was not an intentional suicide but was an accidental suicide? I mean was there anything else involved in this?

BOYD: Suicide by definition is an intentional act which cannot be an accidental act.


BOYD: Last question over here.


BOYD: The best way to describe his position when we found him, when we examined him -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you step to the mike?

BOYD: The best way to describe his position is to, in essence, say he was in a seated position suspended slightly above the ground. What that means is, his body is in a position that looks like he's sitting in a chair, slightly off the ground, suspended from the belt that was wedged between the door and the door frame that was placed around his neck.

OK, that's all we have for today. Any further updates in the interim will be issued to on the press page. But when we have final summary discovery to release, that will be through a press conference. We will provide 24-hours' notice for that press conference. I will respond to e-mails. I ask for your patience in responding to those e-mails. Understand I am looking at them and I will respond to them in time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) to when that will be, the final - the final -

BOYD: Several weeks. Toxicology takes a minimum of two to six weeks. And it would be presumptive of us to release any final findings until we have all of our toxicology studies concluded.

OK. Thank you for your time.


BOYD: Have a good day.

BALDWIN: All right, you've been listening to pretty gruesome, grim details of the final moment of Robin Williams' life. It's tough to wrap your head around someone who has so brightened the screen and the stage for decades and now to hear, according to investigators, Marin County, California, he was found essentially hanging. He -- it was asphyxia due to hanging, found suspended it sounds like above the floor with a belt wrapped around his neck and attached to a nearby closet.

Also we just learned that there was a small pocket knife that was found near his body with what appeared to be dried blood. Was it the blood of Robin Williams or not, they cannot conclusively say, but he did have, I believe the adjective was superficial, superficial wounds to his wrist.

So let's talk about this with Dr. John Mann, a suicide researcher for Columbia Psychiatry and joins me here.

Just, you know, you and I listening to the investigator, first things first, when you hear it was death by hanging, asphyxia due to hanging, and you were telling me, as we were listening, that is the most common method of suicide.

DR. JOHN MANN, SUICIDE RESEARCHER, COLUMBIA PSYCHIATRY: That's true for most of the world, most of the western world. But in the United States, death by gunshot is the method of suicide is the commonest method. About half the suicides in the U.S., that's 20,000 people a year, die by gunshot, self-inflicted.

BALDWIN: Worldwide, hanging. U.S., gunshot. In this case we know it was hanging. And your second observation, the fact that potentially with a pocket knife unsuccessful attempts, using a belt, not having a rope, not necessarily showing premeditation, a lot of thought going into it.

MANN: Yes. It sounds like, from the description, that he didn't really plan or prepare for this for very long at all. It was probably a relatively spontaneous idea. He wasn't sure what to do and so he used whatever methods were at hand. But he was clearly determined.

BALDWIN: Dr. Mann, can you just help us understand how someone so beloved, and obviously hearing from himself, from friends through the years, definitely battling depression, bipolar disorder, addiction issues, but so loved, so successful, children, a wife, what takings you to that final moment of deciding to take your own life?

MANN: Yes, it's terribly tragic and -- but the -- what happens is, the person has been suffering from depression, often experiences a kind of a pain, a psychological pain due to the depression. Patients will say that pain's worse than any physical pain that they've had. They'd rather have a physical pain than the psychological pain of the depression. So the person is battling this illness and it's something inside. It's hard for people around them to really appreciate just how difficult it is. And sometimes, and maybe too often, they use alcohol to try and get some relief, but the alcohol is a two-edge sword. And, you know, what you really need is good treatment for the depression.

But not everybody who suffers from depression is at risk for suicide. There's a subgroup of people that are a little bit different that are at risk. And you can't see that looking at them. You can often have trouble tell by talking to them. But they're different. They've experienced the pain as more severe. They feel more pessimistic and hopeless about ever getting better. The reason for living that they might talk about are fewer and less compelling than they are for other people. So --

BALDWIN: Is that just what overwhelms a person despite family, despite perhaps reasons for living, successes. You are overburdened with a burden or a sense of failure? Is that what it is?

MANN: Basically the depression is not a sense of failure. The depression is a sense of distress and pain and suffering and the person needs relief from it. And if they don't think they're going to get better and they can't stand it any longer, then they begin to think life isn't worth living this way. Then, even though they have all this, a lot of people will just hang on because of religion, because of their family, because of their kids. They don't want to let people down. And so they just put up with it and suffer for longer. But if you throw other things into the equation, like taking some alcohol or something like that -


MANN: That can change the way you see the world and the way you feel and the way you act and the decisions that you might make.

BALDWIN: I think we need to stay on this because this is such an issue just hearing from you on Twitter through the day today, so many people are touched, either suffering from depression themselves, knowing someone who has. So just -- you can get help. Let me just put this phone number up on the screen, guys, if we have it. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255. Let me say it again, 1- 800-273-8255.

Dr. John Mann, thank you very much.

Coming up next, we'll talk live with the producer of "Comic Relief" and a dear friend of Robin Williams who says he is not surprised how the actor died because of his social skills. He has many fascinating stories about the man, the legend.

Plus, I'll speak with a father whose live girl had one last wish before she died. She wanted to meet Robin Williams. Hear what he did for her, coming up .


ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: I see him as a father. That's where he really shines. See, when he looks in his kids' eyes, that kid knows that his dad really sees him, sees who he is. And then that child knows that he's an amazing person. He's quite a guy that I'll (ph) never get to meet.