Robin Williams hanged himself with belt, official says


Authorities described Robin Williams’ final moments Tuesday, saying the actor and comedian hanged himself with a belt in his San Francisco Bay Area home.

Marin County Sheriff’s Lt. Keith Boyd said Williams was last seen alive by his wife Sunday night when she went to bed. She woke up the next morning and left, thinking he was still asleep.

Shortly after that, Williams’ personal assistant came to the home and became concerned when Williams failed to respond to knocks at a door. The assistant found the 63-year-old actor clothed and dead in a bedroom.

Boyd said all evidence indicates Williams, star of “Good Will Hunting,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Good Morning, Vietnam” and dozens of other films, killed himself. But he said a final ruling will be made once toxicology reports and interviews with witnesses are complete.

The condition of the body indicated Williams had been dead for at least several hours, Boyd said.

Williams had been seeking treatment for depression, Boyd said. He would not say whether the actor left a suicide note.

“We still have people we want to speak with, so there is some information we’re going to withhold,” Boyd said. “We’re not discussing the note, or a note, at this point as the investigation is ongoing.”

It was no secret that the Oscar-winning actor had periodic bouts of substance abuse and depression — he made reference to it himself in his comedy routines. Just last month, Williams announced he was returning to a 12-step treatment program.

When he sought treatment in 2006 after a relapse that followed 20 years of sobriety, he joked: “I went to rehab in wine country to keep my options open.”

Likewise, when word spread about his struggles with drugs in the early 1980s, Williams responded with a joke that for a time became a catchphrase for his generation’s recreational drug use: “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you you are making too much money.”

The circumstances of the death do not help explain what motivated him, suicide experts said. They stressed that suicide rarely is triggered by a single factor, such as depression or substance abuse. Typically there are at least two such influences, often compounded by acute stress, such as from financial hardship or troubled personal relationships.

“We know from decades of research that there are numerous factors that contribute to suicide risk,” said Michelle Cornette, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology.

Word that he had killed himself left neighbors stunned and grief-stricken. Williams had lived in the quiet, waterfront neighborhood for eight years, according to neighbors.

Noreen Nieder said Williams was a friendly neighbor who always said hello and engaged in small talk. Nieder said she still felt comfortable enough to approach him and ask him about his latest stint in drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

“He was very open about it,” Nieder said. “He told me he was doing well.”

Makeshift memorials of flowers and notes popped up around the country, including on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, his home and outside the house where the ’80s sitcom “Mork &Mindy” was set in Colorado.

  • phu

    This is sad. Hopefully seeing this — particularly the effect it has on the people who personally knew and loved him — will motivate others who struggle with substance abuse and/or depression to seek counseling.

    It’s definitely not a good thing to see public figures go out in such a tragic way, but with all the people who commit suicide and don’t make the news, when this does happen it’s an opportunity for others in similar situations to look at themselves and perhaps start looking for therapy that might change their outlook.

  • disqus_78r6IPfptX

    I was shocked and sad. But it bothers me that suicides give the public mental health lobby – both the professionals and the amateurs – more scope to press their invasive mental health line on us. Suicide and attempted suicide by themselves are not proof or even evidence of mental illness. To assume they are is to ignore the possibility that a person might have perfectly rational reasons for ending their lives. And since no human being knows the mind of another (and most of us don’t rightly know ourselves, either), the rationality of suicide cannot be eliminated. and the possibility of it being a reasonable choice remains real. That may or may not be the case with Mr. Williams, whose history of substance abuse at least is well known.

    • phu

      I downvoted this and then took it back. Honestly, this evokes the question of intrinsic morality, and that’s something I don’t agree with… so while I don’t agree with suicide as a solution or even a good thing in most cases, I also have no interest in explicitly demonizing it. This is a really nasty issue that would take a great deal of societal pressure to change or, as some of us would view it, “solve.”

      • disqus_78r6IPfptX

        Lobbying in favor of suicide would be perverse. But with an extremely low regard for the mental health lobby in society in my pocket, plus a suspicion of ‘official’ information, I advocate freedom to Be – especially the freedom to Be unconventional – , which requires maximum freedom to err in a cocoon of maximum privacy.