Hatfield died of drug overdose, autopsy says

January 07, 2004|By Richard Chang | Richard Chang,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Righteous Brother Bobby Hatfield died from cocaine use, according to an autopsy report.

The report, released by Michigan's Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner's office on Monday, states that Hatfield's cause of death was "acute cocaine toxicity." The 63-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer was found dead in his Kalamazoo hotel room Nov. 5, less than an hour before he was scheduled to kick off a Midwest tour with partner Bill Medley.

Initial reports said he died in his sleep of a heart attack.

Hatfield did suffer from heart disease, the report says, with one coronary artery blocked as much as 95 percent. His heart condition, combined with the cocaine, proved to be a fatal mix.

"This is a shock to me," Medley said Monday evening from his Newport Beach, Calif., home. The surviving Righteous Brother performed with Hatfield for most of the past 41 years. "I never saw him [use cocaine]. ... If I had known, I would have said something to him."

Hatfield family members also were surprised to hear the news. His widow, Linda Hatfield, learned about cocaine being a factor in Bobby's death as early as Dec. 26 or 27, when the Kalamazoo medical examiner called her.

Linda suffered a stroke Dec. 29 and was admitted to a Newport Beach hospital. She suffered a second, bigger stroke Saturday and remained at the hospital.

Dan Weston, chief of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, said he did not plan to launch an investigation, because no illegal substances or drug paraphernalia were found in Hatfield's hotel room at the time of his death.

The autopsy - released Monday after Michigan's WWMT TV filed a Freedom of Information Act request - determined that Hatfield's blood contained 143 nanograms of cocaine per milliliter.

Richard Turner, the Kalamazoo medical examiner, told a WWMT reporter that the cocaine alone may not have killed Hatfield, but with his heart condition, it proved "a fatal combination."

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