Carradine family seeks FBI, forensics help

June 6, 2009 1:51:52 PM PDT
The family of David Carradine is asking the FBI and a private forensics expert to help investigate the "Kung Fu" actor's death, attorney Mark Geragos said Saturday, the same day Thai police said surveillance footage indicated no one had entered his hotel room before he died. Carradine's brother Keith met Friday with the FBI and filed reports that could lead to the agency opening its own inquiry, said Geragos, who represents Keith Carradine. The family will also seek a private autopsy by famed forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to determine whether another person could have been involved, Geragos said.

The actor's family hopes the body will arrive in Los Angeles by Monday, Geragos said, but he did not give specifics.

Geragos said the family intervened because of conflicting information about Carradine's death and a lack of direct information from Thai authorities.

"All we really know is not much more than what the public knows, and that's disturbing," Geragos said.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller on Saturday confirmed that Carradine's family had contacted the agency. Agents were checking with the FBI's legal attache at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok to see if Thai authorities "are requesting or would welcome FBI assistance in this matter." She said the FBI generally only gets involved in death investigations overseas if a crime is suspected.

David Carradine's body was discovered Thursday morning in his luxury suite by a chambermaid at Bangkok's Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel, said its general manager, Aurelio Giraudo. Carradine's family, friends and representatives have said they doubt the 72-year-old actor would have killed himself.

Police initially said Carradine's body was found "naked, hanging in a closet," causing them to suspect he had taken his own life. On Friday, however, police said the actor may have died from accidental suffocation or heart failure after revealing that he was found with a rope tied around his wrist, neck and genitals - leading to speculation that Carradine may have engaged in a dangerous form of sex play known as auto-erotic asphyxiation.

The results of an autopsy performed Friday in Bangkok were not expected for at least three weeks, said Dr. Nanthana Sirisap, director of Chulalongkorn Hospital's Autopsy Center. Nanthana said that was normal considering the unusual circumstances of the death.

Col. Somprasong Yenthuam, who is heading the investigation, said police have interviewed all staff at the hotel where Carradine was staying and reviewed surveillance footage outside his room. Based on that, they have found no evidence that anyone was in Carradine's room before he died which they said all but ruled out foul play.

The investigation continued Saturday, with police interviewing the crew of the film that Carradine was shooting in Bangkok.

Baden is a celebrity among forensic pathologists, appearing on a series of HBO specials highlighting some of the more than 20,000 autopsies he has performed. He frequently consults on high-profile cases, including conducting an autopsy on Drew Peterson's third wife and as a defense witness for Phil Spector during his first murder trial.

Baden is the chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police and Geragos said he expects Baden's examination will clear up many unanswered questions.

"It's an amazing thing what a good pathologist can accomplish," Geragos said.

Carradine flew to Thailand last week and began work on a film titled "Stretch" two days before his death. His friends and associates told CNN's Larry King he had a happy marriage, recently bought a new car, and had several films lined up after he finished work in Bangkok.

Carradine, a martial arts practitioner himself, was best known for the U.S. TV series "Kung Fu," which aired from 1972-75. He played Kwai Chang Caine, an orphan who was raised by Shaolin monks and fled China for the American West after killing the emperor's nephew in retaliation for the murder of his kung fu master.

Carradine also appeared in more than 100 feature films with such directors as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman and Hal Ashby. He returned to the top in recent years as the title character in Quentin Tarantino's two-part saga "Kill Bill."

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.