Liberace Had AIDS, Coroner Says; Accuses Doc of Cover-Up
INDIO, Calif. (AP) _ Liberace died of a disease caused by AIDS, the Riverside County coroner said Monday, and he accused the entertainer’s doctors of covering up the cause of death.
″Somebody along the line wanted to pull a fast one on us,″ Coroner Raymond Carrillo said at a news conference.
Miscroscopic tissue analysis showed that Liberace died because of cytomegalovirus pneumonia due to human immunodeficiency virus disease, Carrillo said.
″In layman’s terms, Mr. Liberace died of an opportunistic disease caused by acquired immune deficiency syndrome,″ he said.
Cytomegalovirus is a common virus that affects more than half the adult population without ill effects. It can be fatal, however to people whose disease-fighting immune system is weakened by the AIDS virus.
In addition to the fatal pneumonia caused by the cytomegalovirus, Carrillo said the contributing causes of Liberace’s death included lung and heart disease and a hardening, or calcification, of a valve in the heart.
Carrillo said he believed that Liberace’s doctors covered up the cause of his death. He died Wednesday at his Palm Springs home at the age of 67.
″The original cause of death did not make sense,″ he said.
Dr. Ronald Daniels, a physician who treated Liberace, said the entertainer died of cardiac arrest due to heart failure brought on by subacute encephalopathy, a brain inflammation.
″Encephalopathy does not cause heart disease,″ Carrillo said.
The coroner added that Daniels’ failure to report the correct cause of death would be reported for possible disciplinary action to California’s Board of Medical Quality Assurance. A similar failure by Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where Liberace was entombed, would be reported to the state board responsible for regulating mortuaries, he said.
Daniels’ receptionist said the doctor is declining comment.
Forest Lawn spokesman Dick Fisher said in Los Angeles that the mortuary had relied on the doctor’s death certificate. ″We’re not doctors, we’re not medical examiners. That’s all we can do,″ he said.
Liberace’s aides repeatedly denied he had contracted acquired immune deficiency syndrome. They maintained he was suffering pernicious anemia, heart disease and emphysema.
It was first reported Jan. 24 by the Las Vegas (Nev.) Sun that Liberace was suffering from AIDS. The newspaper attributed the information to unidentified sources.
Riverside County officials refused to accept the death certificate signed by Daniels when they discovered the coroner had not been contacted as required in the case of possible contagious diseases, and because a doctor wasn’t in attendance when Liberace died, Carrillo said.
Fans of Liberace have expressed outrage about the investigation to see whether the popular entertainer had AIDS.
″It just made me sick when I heard all this digging up dirt,″ Edie Petersen said Sunday at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills. ″I resent anyone going into anyone’s private life.″
″They should let the man rest in peace. I don’t care what he had,″ said Aude Pace of Los Angeles, who had tears in her eyes. ″That’s his private business. They should just close the case.″
Coroner’s investigator Sabas Rosas said if proper procedure had been followed, it wouldn’t have been necessary for his office to hold a news conference on the cause of death, offending Liberace’s fans.
″It’s too bad it went to this extent,″ said Rosas. ″If protocol had been followed the way it should have been, it probably wouldn’t have ended up where we’re at.″
″We’re doing our duty under the law. We owe it to the public we serve. The mortuary had an obligation to notify us,″ Rosas said.
Liberace’s New York publicist, Denise Collier, and longtime manager Seymour Heller repeatedly had denied Liberace suffered AIDS. Collier had said the entertainer suffered pernicious anemia, heart disease and emphysema. She was gone from her office Monday night and unavailable for immediate comment, her answering service said.