The Forensic Mysteries of Robin Williams's Death

I studied suicides for years and did my Ph.D. thesis on it and then a book at Princeton University Press, the social meanings of suicide. I’ve known about suicide dangers since I was a child. I studied real cases and argued the official stats. are invalid and unreliable in extremis. I did an interview study of coroners and med. examiners in NY State to see how they decided a death was caused by suicide. I know about forensic science.

My forensic analysis of Robin Williams’ death is simple.

Robin had severe, life threatening problems known to all who knew him well, certainly to his family.

He had decades of alcohol and drug problems, severe anxiety and depression for decades [like many great comedians], many family problems, recent open  heart surgery, early Parkinson’s, depression over those, drugs and professionals for such problems, and was an obvious suicide threat, as all family probably knew to keep them watching for any serious problems he might have.[amazon asin=0375701478&template=*lrc ad (left)]

He supposedly did not take any of the drugs he could have  used for a peaceful exit, he slept alone, he supposedly was left alone in his room in a wing of the  house where no one could hear his body thrashing around and falling to the floor upon his hanging death, no one checked on him for about sixteen hours, his wife left home without checking on  him, late in the morning his business manager [?] called, got no answer and went over to check on him and found his body.

Is this negligent suicide? Forgetfulness suicide? Concealed homicide? Or simply suicide by a man so despairing and angry at himself that he chose a very painful way to kill himself rather than take a mere bodkin close at hand?[amazon asin=031256550X&template=*lrc ad (right)]

I don’t know the answers and certainly do not impugn anyone’s public statements, but I know that any serious forensic investigation would ask about all of that and far more.

How alone can a world famous comedian be when he is in grave peril in many ways?

I can’t think of anyone I have known who  was that alone at the end, except one close friend and in-law to some of my family. None of us had any idea he was having any serious problems of loneliness, depression or anything. IF they  had, they would not  have left him alone.

[amazon asin=0312113668&template=*lrc ad (left)]Assuming Robin died in the way we have read and no one had any idea of  the dangers, his case should be made public in this way to alert people to the dangers. This does not deny personal freedom to someone like Robin, but it does help to prevent a momentary set of low probability events that could lead to a suicide mistake. I did a life study with a beautiful, very intelligent young woman in Syracuse, the wife of a psychiatrist, who drove out into the woods and took a bottle of barbs to kill herself because she was despairing over his desertion of her and more. She was discovered and rushed to the hospital where they declared her DOA in the parking lot [probably to avoid bad stats. for the ER or  just paperwork]. She was sent to the morgue. In the middle of the night a morgue attendant saw her sheet move and revived her. My breakfast paper headline blared out, “Woman returns from the dead.” I called her and did the life study with  her. She was still mad as hell that they revived  her. She was in love with death as an escape from her miseries. No, I never checked to find out if she kept living. In a way, I don’t want to know even now. Some people are very committed to dying by suicide, often by “accident” such as driving off the road to avoid hurting the family. IF Robin was that committed to death as an escape, he was a brilliant guy with all the resources needed and would  have succeeded. I doubt it. I think he fit the pattern that Shneidman and Farberow, who founded the Suicide Prevention programs nationwide and at NIMH [and whom I knew well], called a suicide attempt as a cry for help.” Our family friend and in-law was deadly serious. He was ex-Army, wrote a careful suicide note with details of property and instructions and shot himself point blank. I was still a bit suspicious, but the investigation was overseen by a loving family member of the PD and he said it was real.