Cause Of Rick James' Death Still Uncertain After Autopsy

Toxicology tests under way; results expected in a few weeks.

The cause of Rick James' death remains uncertain following an autopsy performed Saturday by the Los Angeles County coroner's office. James, 56, died in his sleep Friday at his Los Angeles home.

"The results [of the autopsy] performed on Mr. James have been deferred, pending the outcome of the tests ordered by the physician at the time of the autopsy," said coroner's office spokesperson David Campbell. "These tests are toxicological."

The cause of James' death will not be known until the results of the toxicology tests are available. According to Campbell, the normal turnaround time on the tests is 6-10 weeks. "But given the high profile and media interest in the tests, I'm certainly hoping they'll be able to get results more rapidly," he said.

 

Photos: Rick James 1948-2004

A spokesperson for James' three children — daughter Ty and sons Rick Jr. and Tazman — told The Associated Press on Friday that they believe their father died of heart failure. But due to in part to the performer's long battle with cocaine addiction, which contributed to James' two assault convictions and his two-year stint in prison in the early 1990s, the coroner's office chose to investigate the death (see "Funk Legend Rick James Found Dead").

"The coroner's office became involved in the investigation into Mr. James' death due to his past medical history, including substance abuse," Campbell said. "It's certainly known he had a stroke and other medical conditions."

The singer suffered a stroke in 1998 when a blood vessel in the back of his neck broke during a performance in Denver. He was also a diabetic and had a pacemaker. It was originally thought that James' attending physician would sign off on the death certificate, which states that James died due to an existing medical condition. But California law says that if a physician has not attended to a patient within 20 days of the death, the case becomes reportable to the coroner's office.

"It had been more than six weeks since his regular physician had attended him, so we took jurisdiction of the case," Campbell said. "And there was concern about the past history of substance abuse."

James' publicist announced that there will be a public viewing of the singer's body on Wednesday at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Memorial Park on 6300 Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles. Fans are encouraged to attend between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m.