River Phoenix Autopsy Report


Name: River Jude Phoenix
Address: 8916 Ashcroft Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90211.
Sex: M
Race: C
DOB: 8-23-70
Age: 24
Height: 70
Weight: 149
Eyes: Green
Hair: Brown
Teeth: Own
Condition: Viewable.

Anatomical Summary:

1) History of cocaine, heroin and diazepam use.
2) Abrasions of hand
3) Contusion of shin.
4) Evidence of therapy.
a-Intravenous catheters of neck, subclavian region, arm and hand.
b-Resuscitation mark on chest.
c-Foley catheter.


On 10/30/93, the decedent reportedly went to a nightclub. He was allegedly speedballing, as well as receiving Valium. Early the next morning, he was found by paramedics just outside the front door of the club in cardiac arrest. He was taken to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Drug screen at the hospital was presumptively positive for benzodiazepine, cannabinoids, cocaine metabolite, propoxyphene and opiates. Ethanol was not detected.


The body is that of an unembalmed Caucasian young adult male who appears the stated age of 23 years. The body is identified by toe tags. The body weighs 159 pounds, measures 70 inches in length and is well built, muscular and fairly well nourished. There is no abnormal skin colouring or pigmentation. No tattoos are present. Rigor Mortis is well developed in the limbs and jaw. Livor mortis is fixed and distributed over the posterior surface of the body as well as the palms of the hands. There are small abrasions on the knuckles of the right index finger and the right thumb. The right shin shows a red purple contusion. The head, which is normocephalic is covered by brown hair. There is no balding. Examination of the eyes reveals pupils with green irides and sclerae that show no injection or jaundice. There are no petechial hemorrhages of the conjunctivae of the lids or the sclerae. The oronasal passages are unobstructed. The nasal septum is intact and without inflammation. Upper and lower teeth are present. The neck is unremarkable. Resuscitative marks are present over the precordium. There is no chest deformity. There is no increase in the anterior posterior diameter of the chest There are no scars of the chest or abdomen. The abdomen is flat. The genitalia are those of a circumcised adult male. A foley catheter is present. There is no anal or genital trauma. There are no needle tracks identified on the arms or neck. There are fresh venipunctures of the right neck, left subclavian region reight antecubital region and left hand which are related to therapeutic procedures. Edema of the extremities is not present. Joint deformities, crepitance and abnormal mobility are not present.


The body is unclothed when received. Accompanying the body are the following items:

1) A pair of brown long pants with dark stripes. The label says ‘split’ size m-long.
2) A pair of white and black high top tennis shoes with the label ‘All Star’ size 10 1/2.
3) A pair of socks.


The body cavities are entered through a Y shaped incision. No foreign material is present in the mouth or upper airway. No lesions are present nor is trauma of the gingiva, lips or oral mucosa demonstrated. Both hyoid bone and larynx are intact without fractures. No hemorrhage present in the adjacent throat organs. There are no prevertebral fascial hemorrhages. The pleural cavities contains a small quantity of straw coloured fluid. Rib fractures are not present. The parietal pleurae are intact. The lungs are well expanded. Soft tissues of the thoracic and abdominal walls are well preserved. There is no recent evidence of injury to the chest and abdominal walls other than the resuscitation mark and liver temperature mark. The organs of the abdominal cavity have a normal arrangement. None is absent. There is no fluid collection of the abdomen. The peritoneal cavity is without evidence of peritonitis. There are no adhesions.



The aorta is elastic and of even caliber throughout with vessels distributed normally from it. It shows a minimal lipid streaking. There is no tortuosity, widening or aneurysm of the aorta.

Within the pericardial sac there is a minimal amount of serous fluid. The heart weighs 310 grams. It has a normal configuration. There are a few petechial hemorrhages of the posterior epicardium. The chambers are normally developed. The valves are thin, leafy and competent. There is no endocardial discolouration. The chambers are without mural thrombosis. There is no scarring or hemorrhage of the apices of the papillary muscles. There are no defects of the septum. The great vessels enter and leave in a normal fashion. The ductus arteriosus and foramen ovale are obliterated. The coronary ostia are widely patent. The right coronary artery is the dominant vessel. There is no coronary artery atherosclerosis. There are no focal lesions of the myocardium.


There is no edema of the larynx. There are no fractures of the laryngeal cartilages. Scant mucoid fluid is found in the upper respiratory passages. The mucosa is intact. The right lung weighs 500 grams and the left lung weighs 350 grams. The lungs are subcrepitant and there is dependent congestion. The visceral pleurae are smooth and intact. The parenchyma is mildly congested. The pulmonary vasculayture is without thromboembolism.


The esophagus is intact throughout. The stomach is moderately distended by gas. It contains approximately 200cc of dark fluid. The mucosa is intact without hemorrhage or ulceration. No medication or capsular material is identified. The external appearance of the small intestine and colon is unremarkable. The small intestine and colon are opeed along their anti mesenteric border and no mucosal lesions are present. The appendix is present. The pancreas occupies a normal position. The parenchyma is lobular and firm. The pancreatic ducts are not ectatic. There is no parenchymal calcification.


The liver weighs 1860 grams. It is red brown. The capsule is thin. The consistency is soft and the cut surface is smooth. There is a normal lobular arrangement. The gallbladder is present and its wall is thin and pliable. It contains no stones and a moderate quantity of bile is present. There is no obstruction or dilatation of the extrahepatic ducts. The periportal lymph nodes are not enlarged.


The right kidney weighs 120 grams and the left kidney weighs 140 grams. The kidneys are normally situated and the capsules strip with ease revealing a surface that is smooth and dark purple. The corticomedullary demarcation is obscured by congestion. The pyramids are not remarkable. The peripelvic fat is not increased. The ureters are without dilatation or obstruction. The urinary bladder is unremarkable. The bladder contains no urine. The foley catheter bag contains approximately 20 to 30cc of urine.


The prostate is without enlargement or nodularity. Both testes are in the scrotum and without trauma.


The spleen weighs 250 grams. The capsule is smooth and intact. The parenchyma is firm and dark red. There is no increase in the follicular pattern. Lymph nodes throughout the body are small and inconscpicous.


They thyroid gland is unremarkable. The adrenals are intact without necrosis or hemorrhage. The thymus has the usual appearance for the age. The pituitary gland is of normal size.


There is no hemorrhage beneath the scalp, into the orbits nor into the temporal muscles. The external periosteum and dura mater are stripped showing no fractures of the calvarium or base of the skull. There are no intracranial hematomas. There are no tears of the dura mater and no epidural, subdural or subarachnoid hematoma. The brain weighs 1540 grams. The leptomeninges are thin and transparent. A normal convolutionary pattern is observed. Coronal sectioning demonstrates a uniformity of cortical gray thickness. The cerebral hemispheres are symmetrical.There is softening discolouration or hemorrhage of the white matter. The basal ganglia are intact. Anatomic landmarks are preserved. The ventricular system is symmetrical without dilatation or distortion. Pons, medulla and cerebellum are unremarkable. There is no evidence of uncal or cerebellar herniation. Vessels at the base of the brain have a normal pattern of distribution. There are no aneurysms. The cerebral arteries are without arteriosclerosis.

SPINAL CORD: The spinal cord is not dissected.


Representative specimens from various organs are preserved on 10% formalin and placed in the storage jar.


Blood, bile, urine, liver tissue and stomach contents have been submitted to the laboratory. The blood sample is given Toxicologist Anderson at 1055 hours on 11/1/93. C screen and terahydrocannabinol are requested.


Photographs have been taken prior to the autopsy.


Detective Lee was present during the autopsy.

OPINION (November 12.1993)

Toxicology studies showed high concentrations of morphine (Heroin) and cocaine in the blood, as well as other substances in smaller concentrations. Police investigation shows no indication of foul play at this point. The toxicology findings are consistent with the history.

DEATH WAS CAUSED BY: Acute multiple drug intoxication.


1) LASD Homicide SGT Mike Lee; at hospital
2) Gerry Gibson, Hospital Administrative Supervisor; at hospital
3) LASF Deputy J Williams #27586; at hospital.
4) Arlyn S Phoenix, Decedent’s mother; via phone
5) Marr Nealon, family friend, actress; at the department.


At 0150 hours on 10/31/93, the department was notified of a possible accidental death by overdoes, involving actor River Phoenix. The decedent had been transported to Cedars Sinai Hospital by paramedics and subsequently pronounced. I responded to the hospital per Lt Michael Joseph and contacted LASD Homicide SGT Mike Lee. It was learned friends and family members were at the hospital, however when the decedent was pronounced, they left the hospital. The decedent’s agent was also at the hospital (ID’d as Iris Burton) but also left before she could be interviewed.

Apparently the dececent had gone to a nightclub (The Viper) located at 8860 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, on the evening of 10/30/93, with friends and his brother. The decedent is believed to have been using drugs in the nightclub’s restroom. Attendees who refused to be identified, report the decedent ‘speedballing.’ His girlfriend, Id’d as Samantha Mathis (DOB 5/12/70) told deputies, she heard someone had given the decedent something to calm him down. She assumed the something to be valium. She denied any knowledge of the decedent’s drug use. It should be noted, Mathis was contacted twice via phone, however refused to offer information regarding the incident.)

At 0110 hours, 10/31/93, LASD and LACFD received a 911 call for medical aid, possible seizure activity. Upon arrival of RA 7 (Capt Ribar, Paramedics Houston, Scott and Phillips) The decedent was observed just outside the front door of the club on the sidewalk and was in full arrest, per Capt. Ribar. CPR was immediately started and at 0131 hours, the decedent was transported to the hospital, arriving at 0134 hours. The decedent was subsequently pronounced in the ER by Dr Paul Silka, at 0151 hours.

The decedent was screened drugs and ethanol. The substance abuse panel detected: Benzodiazepines, Cannabinoids, Cocaine Metabolite, Propoxyphene and Opiates. Ethanol was not detected.

The decedent was observed in the hospital morgue, and was noted to be wearing brown split jeans with black strips, size M, LG; white socks and black converse hi-top sneakers. (Per Capt Ribar, the decedent had a jacket and a shirt, which he believes were left at the scene upon transporting.) Per the hospital administrative supervisor, the decedent had no property upon arrival.

A body examination reveals fresh bruising to the decedent’s left palm near his thumb, three scabbed over abrasions on the top of the right hand, one fresh abrasion on the right index finger, first knuckle and a scar on his right shin. Also noted is a red star, stamped on the top of his right hand. (Received upon entering the nightclub.) A liver temperature was taken at 0337 hours showing 99 degrees with the ambient temperature at 68 degrees.

It should be noted, the decedent was pronounced dead at 0151 hours daylight savings time and when the liver temperature was taken at 0337 hours the time then changed to pacific standard time.

The decedent was later transported from the hospital to the FSC for further examination, by JP Nava #412696.

No other information was available at the time of the report. However, the investigation by LASD Sgt Lee and DET Comstock is continuing.

IDENTIFICATION: Made by the decedent’s brother Joaquin Phoenix at the scene and by the decedent’s agent, Iris Burton at the hospital.

NOTIFICATION: Made by Iris Burton and later confirmed by Goodman #411487.


  1. alberta says:

    This is so sad. He is too precious for this to have happened. Why did you leave River? I don’t like the media and people thinking he’s some drug user. He rarely did drugs and had a very clean body, that’s why it was a shock. Maybe he was poisoned and didn’t even do it…..we will find out one day. Love you River,

  2. noel says:

    I did not but the two together GLAD you pointed it out!

  3. Steve Hinds says:

    its sad. seems that money wont bring happiness and when you have all the money you think you need you turn to something else to get that high in life. more and more celebs seem to be dropping like flies nowadays. absolutely agree with your comment

  4. Its a shame that a childstar works,then makes millions and spends in it on multiple drugs just to get high with,when if i was an actress making millions, the last thing id spend my money on multiple drugs,knowing that other stars have overdosed just cause they have the money,and their lonely cause of the media wont give them privacy ,and cant go out in public so thats why stars do what they do with their money instead of helping their parents out and buying nice things and property, and helping out a charity or help out the homeless with all that money u people earn! Do the right thing stars look at how many stars we have lost,like, micheal jackson,whitney houston,chris farley,elvis presley,jimi hendrix,and the singer that rivers older brother played in a movie about a singer who died of a drug over dose! Joaquin

    • ajka says:

      Except he bought things and property, supported his 4 siblings and basically both parents, he did give money to charity a lot, cared about the world’s issues, bought rain forrest in Venezuela, contributed to the animal rights and so on so on. He was just young guy who always had adult responsibility and mature viewing of world so he times to times just wanted to dissolve that in relaxation on drugs and music I guess. He wasn’t regular drug-addict at all I think. It was just bad luck which could have happen to almost every kid and not only in this industry but in general…That makes it even scarier – that someone survives and someone doesn’t. Like a vicious lottery.

    • ajka says:

      And Joaquin is River’s younger brother and played country legend – Johnny Cash who definitelly didn’t die of drug overdose but at age 71 of complicaton of diabetes.

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