The Investigation

The Coroner & Sheriff

The Coroner

My first battle started with a simple request of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner for the file for Natalie Wood Wagner, and in particular, the Paul Miller report mentioned in Dr. Noguchi’s 1983 book Coroner. After seven weeks and two additional requests, the coroner’s office sent me an incomplete microfilm copy of Natalie’s autopsy report.

I wrote and told the coroner’s office how much I appreciated the gesture but noted that the office forgot the Paul Miller report as well as other sections of the autopsy report. I heard nothing. Over the next three months, I wrote four more letters. After the third letter, I received a letter from Lev Levon, Chief of the Public Services section of the coroner’s office.

To begin with, based on my interactions with the coroner’s office, the designation “Public Services” must have been an attempt at humor. Secondly, Mr. Levon said, “…the ‘consult/evaluation report’ of Mr. Paul Miller is not a public record and was not generated by this Department (my emphasis), and, therefore, not disclosable by this Department. Additionally, any information considered from Mr. Paul Miller’s original evaluation for the reevaluation of the coroner’s report has been incorporated in the disclosable supplemental autopsy report completed on May 20, 2012.” Come again???

Of course, Mr. Levon was sadly in error. He obviously had not read Dr. Noguchi’s book—which I had previously brought to the office’s attention—before he wrote his letter. So, I wrote directly to Dr. Mark A. Fajardo, the coroner at the time, explaining my travails with his office. I received the following response:

Response Letter

Being left with no other choice, I sued Dr. Fajardo on November 10, 2015. Four months later, Dr. Fajardo, who had been coroner for 2-1/2 years, abruptly resigned. He claimed it was because his department was understaffed due to lack of funds to operate.

Apparently, however, Dr. Fajardo was under scrutiny by the Board of Commissioners for mismanagement in the department’s toxicology lab that led to a backlog of over 100 cases. If you have read my book, you know our old friend Michael Antonovich, who held his position for 36 years and was making more than $300,000 per year, was the commissioner charged with overseeing the coroner’s office.

It looked like nothing had changed in the coroner’s office since Dr. Noguchi was under Antonovich’s supervision, nearly 35 years earlier.

The Sheriff

My dealings with the sheriff’s department were even more unpleasant. I sent my first request for records on May 19, 2015. Although the Public Records Act mandates that an agency respond in ten days, I received no response. So, on July 2, 2015, I sent a second request. This request elicited the following response:

The Sheriff - Response 1.1

Once again, my point of selective disclosure fell on deaf ears. So, I wrote directly to Jim McDonnell, the sheriff at the time, to explain my position and offer a reasonable compromise:

The Sheriff - Response 2.0.1
The Sheriff - Response 2.1.1
The Sheriff - Response 2.2.1

Of course, I was ignored by high potentate. So, I sued him, in the same lawsuit with the coroner.

Because of space limitations and relevancy to the overall subject matter of my book, I decided to provide those who are interested with materials relating to my investigation of Natalie’s case, including the lawsuits I was forced to file in California when the authorities there attempted to block my access to important documents and materials. I hope this will give you some idea of the efforts I made to properly investigate Natalie’s death. Clicking on the icons listed below will conveniently and automatically download the pdf.