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Autoerotic Asphyxia Redux: David Carradine ?

05 Jun

In a rather creepy turn of events, a couple of days after I read an article on and then blogged about autoerotic asphyxia, I learn of the tragic death of actor David Carradine. Apparently he was found in his Bangkok hotel room by the service staff. He was nude, and hanging from a rod in the closet. One story suggested that not only did he have a cord wrapped around his neck but also one around his genitals and apparently the two were tied together somehow. Was this a suicidal hanging or an accidental death during autoerotic activities?

Had there just been the neck cord then a suicidal evident would be likely, but when you add the other cord to the scenario, it suggests that this just might have been an accidental autoerotic asphyxiation. As I said in my previous post, it is very easy to make a mistake such as this because the cord around the neck will collapse the carotid arteries, greatly diminishing blood supply to the brain, which can lead to loss of consciousness very quickly. Once unconscious, the victim can no longer save himself and death follows very quickly.

We still do not know exactly what happened since the information is coming out in bits and pieces. We will have to wait for the medical examiner’s final statement to know what the cause and manner of death actually was and whether there was any autoerotic activity involved. Either way it’s a tragedy. Though I have seen him in many movies and television shows he will always be the peaceful warrior Kwai Chang Caine to me.

LA Times Story

AP/Excite Story

AP/Yahoo Story

Obit Carradine

 

9 responses to “Autoerotic Asphyxia Redux: David Carradine ?

  1. Sheila Lowe

    June 5, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Doug,
    You never said you were psychic, too!

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  2. Pat Marinelli

    June 6, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I too had just finished reading your blog when this news came online. As soon as I saw hanged in a close I knew what was coming next. Sad way for such a great actor to leave us and or be remembered.

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  3. Pat Marinelli

    June 6, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Sorry that was supposed to be closet not close.

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  4. Marilyn Meredith

    June 6, 2009 at 9:57 am

    I think this is sad. I once met David’s father, John Carradine, in line at the bank. We both lived in Oxnard CA at the time. He was as friendly as could be, chatted away. His hands were terribly deformed from arthritis.

    Marilyn

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  5. Linda Faulkner

    June 6, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I saw David performing on stage at the Cape Cod Melody tent in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE – must have been the mid-late 1970s. I’ll remember him for that.

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  6. fkwan

    June 6, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Please forgive my stupidity, but I’m having trouble visualizing the bound hands element. If you don’t have a hand free, you can’t pull on the slack part of the rope or whatever you’ve rigged up beforehand in case of emergency.

    In other words, what is the likelihood of the unfortunate Carradine case being a straightforward case of AEA accident vs. murder? Also interesting (assuming any of these stories are true) is the testimony of some hotel person on TMZ stating that there were only marks on his neck. Wouldn’t there be some kind of struggle markings on his wrists/genitals as well? Would the lack of such markings (if true) mean that someone bound the wrists postmortem to make it look like a murder?

    I am an allied health clerical worker (medical transcriptionist) with a lifelong interest in forensic pathology.

    A sad end for a great beloved actor, but if he was murdered….I’d want the perp brought to justice.

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    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      June 7, 2009 at 8:01 am

      The questions you posed are exactly the questions that criminal investigators ask when confronted with a case like this. In this case, the manner of death could be suicidal, accidental, or homicidal. The fact that his wrist were bound might or might not be problematic. For years it was felt that if someone committed suicide by hanging but when found their wrists were bound, then someone else must have been involved. This might be the case, but not necessarily. People choosing this method of suicide will sometimes tie their own hands—in order to prevent second thoughts I would suspect. The question is: Did the person tie his own hands or did someone else?

      There is a forensic specialty called a forensic knot analyst. Yes this really exists. This knot expert will look at the nature of any restraints used in a criminal or death event and determine if it was possible for this individual to have tied this particular knot in this particular way. If so, then suicide is still a possibility, but if not, that is if the knot is so complex that someone could have not have done it themselves, the possibility of homicide must be considered.

      Along these lines, none of the reports that I read gave details about how his hands were bound. In front? In back? What type of knot? Were his wrists bound by some fancy knot, or were they tied in a knot that he could have fashioned himself, or was the cord simply wrapped around his wrists to create the illusion of being bound? A forensic knot analyst should be able to help make this determination.

      As for not having bruises and abrasions on his wrist and genitals — if indeed this is the case since I’m not sure that TMZ is a reliable source in this regard — that is not exactly unexpected. In the original post I discussed how people easily make mistakes under these circumstances and how the cord will cut off blood supply to the brain and how this can happen very quickly. If someone puts a cord around his neck, and then partially suspends himself from something like a closet clothes bar, the cord can easily interrupt blood flow to the brain. The victim can lose consciousness in as little as 20 seconds. The key is that this can happen almost without warning. The victim could simply be awake one minute and unconscious the next. Or he could have 2 or 3 seconds of dizziness before he lost consciousness. Either way he might not have enough time to save himself.

      As is often seen, the plan here might have been that he bound his hands in front with the intent that he could still reach up and pull the rip cord, so to speak, at any time. Often people in the circumstance will loop the cord around their neck in such a fashion that there is a loose end, which if pulled releases the knot. But if the individual has no warning or if he only has a couple of seconds of dizziness before going out, he doesn’t have time to do this. If so, he would be unconscious and there would be no struggling and therefore no marks in the other areas. So this fact doesn’t really change the possibility that this was an autoerotic accident.

      I understand the family has requested that the FBI become involved and if so I’m sure they will look at all of these things, and maybe even consult a forensic knot analyst. If they do get involved hopefully we will hear from them soon. Though not a rare circumstance, this is an odd case and suicide, homicide, and an accidental death are all still in play.

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  7. Marcus Lonyon

    September 2, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    What way were the knots tied?

    Marcus

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    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      September 3, 2009 at 8:26 am

      I don’t know but that is an important consideration in cases like this—could the victim have tied the knot himself or must it have been done by someone else? There is a speciality known as a forensic knot analyst—and these people do just this, among other things.

      Like

       

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