Celebrities Whose Families Dispute Their Cause Of Death

Losing a loved one is always painful, and for the families of celebrities, watching news and reading stories on the death of their loved ones constantly played out in public makes the tragedy all the more distressing. Those left behind are often forced to grapple with the loss of the regular person they knew as well as the larger-than-life celebrity. 

When celebs sometimes die in tragic or strange circumstances that leave a lot of unanswered questions, conspiracy theories can grow around how they died. But this isn't just something that can happen to those who loved the famous person from a distance, though. Sometimes, those closest to the deceased celebrity also question the conclusion a coroner came to on the death certificate or doubt the official explanation of how they died or even who killed them. 

For the families of these actors, singers, and politicians, questions still remain about the deaths of their famous loved ones.

Aaron Carter

Aaron Carter, brother of Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, stepped out of his sibling's shadow with successful forays into various areas of the entertainment industry over the years. These included releasing two platinum-selling albums, appearing in both Nickelodeon and Broadway shows, and making it to week eight on the ninth season of "Dancing with the Stars."

Aaron had also been open about his struggles with drug misuse. When he was found dead in his full bathtub in 2022, there were drugs at the scene. When the autopsy results came back, it was noted Aaron had substances in his system; however, it was ruled that accidental drowning was what ultimately killed him.

Despite this, Aaron's fiance and his mother expressed doubts both before and after the autopsy results were known. They drew attention to an antagonistic text exchange from what appeared to be a drug dealer who claimed he was owed money on the night Aaron died. Aaron's mother called the bathroom a "possible crime scene" on social media (via TMZ) while his fiance told TMZ, "The results of the autopsy are not closure for me. It claims death is by drowning but also adds he was wearing a t-shirt and necklace in the bathtub which doesn't make sense, why would he be in a bathtub with clothes on? ... I don't understand the chain of events and this report only has us asking more questions."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Lance Reddick

The actor Lance Reddick, best known for his roles in the "John Wick" films and "The Wire," among many others in his long career, was a seemingly healthy person whose underlying heart disease was only discovered when it killed him. Reddick died in 2023 at the age of 60; TMZ subsequently obtained his death certificate, which listed the cause as "ischemic heart disease and atherosclerotic coronary artery disease."

This shocked his loved ones, who could not see heart disease killing someone so outwardly healthy. The family's lawyer explained to ET, "Lance was the most physically fit person I've ever known. He exercised daily ... He ate as if a dietician was monitoring his every meal. The information appearing on the death certificate is wholly inconsistent with his lifestyle. ... the death certificate information is not corroborated and is inconsistent with the facts known to the family." And while medical exams are routine before filming for insurance reasons, he added, "To my knowledge, no medical examination of Lance during his lifetime ever indicated such conditions." He also added that no autopsy had been performed. 

Natalie Wood

Ever since her death in 1981, people have had theories about what "really" happened the night Natalie Wood drowned while on a boat off Catalina Island in California. One of those people is her own sister, Lana Wood.

The original version of events, which Lana included in her book "Little Sister: My Investigation into the Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood," is that Natalie — famous for decades for her roles in films like "West Side Story" and "Rebel Without a Cause" — accidentally drowned. The other people on the boat were Natalie's husband Robert Wagner, her co-star Christopher Walken, and the boat's skipper Dennis Davern. After drinking heavily at dinner on the island, the three actors returned to the boat. Walken and Wagner fought, but Natalie was not with them during the argument. Only later did they realize she was missing.

Lana said the story she was told made no sense, telling the New York Post, "None of the things ... said at that time rang true to me. The things that they were saying that Natalie did they might as well have been saying that she was trying to fly to another planet. They were totally out of character." And while Wagner has been investigated and even called a person of interest in Natalie's death in the years since, nothing has ever been proven. But Lana is sure he was involved, saying, "I don't believe it was premeditated. But that doesn't mean I don't think he did it: Of course he did!"

David Carradine

The actor David Carradine was best known for his starring role in the 1970s TV show "Kung Fu" and as the titular character in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films. But his death in 2009 at age 72 was as strange as any role he ever played. Carradine was staying at a hotel in Bangkok at the time, filming a movie. A maid found his body in a closet in his room, naked. It appeared as if he had died by suicide. However, a pathologist hired by the family told Reuters that the actor's death was due to accidental asphyxiation.

This didn't satisfy Carradine's fourth wife, Marina Anderson, who told ABC News in 2010, "I believe he was murdered. That's all there is to it." She had been divorced from the actor for years by the time he died, but their intimate relationship meant she knew what sort of situation led to the strange position his body was found in. Anderson admitted that Carradine found pleasure in choking, but insisted he would never have done it alone. She said, "I believe he was targeted ... I don't believe he was by himself."

Anderson also spoke of her suspicions that others were involved in her ex-husband's death: "Maybe someone would want to do that for money. David always carried a lot of cash and he always wore expensive watches — you can attract unwanted elements." However, no evidence of murder was ever found.

Whitney Houston

Singer Bobby Brown lost both his ex-wife Whitney Houston (pictured with rapper Ray-J) and the pair's only child together, Bobbi Brown, in shockingly similar circumstances. Both women were found in their bathtubs with drugs in their systems; while 48-year-old Houston was pronounced dead at the scene in 2012, three years later, 22-year-old Bobbi would be on life support for months before she died from the effects of almost drowning.

In a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, Bobby was asked, "What do you think was the most misunderstood thing about" his late ex-wife? While surely there was plenty the world got wrong about one of its biggest-ever superstars, his reply was shocking: After taking a long moment to consider, he said, "I don't think she died from drugs." When asked to clarify if that meant he didn't believe there were any drugs in Houston's system when she died, as the autopsy report had stated was the case, Bobby said yes. At that point, his current wife and manager Alicia Etheredge-Brown jumped in to say unequivocally, "There were drugs in her system." But Bobby would not be silenced on the subject, insisting, "Well, I don't think so."

So what did he believe actually contributed to Houston's death if it wasn't drugs? Brown said, "Just being broken-hearted."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Brittany Murphy

Brittany Murphy's death came as a complete shock to her fans, as the "Clueless" actor was only 32 when she died of pneumonia and iron deficiency anemia. Then, in an even stranger twist, her husband, Simon Monjack, died just five months later, also of pneumonia and anemia. This bizarre coincidence, along with the strange way Monjack and Brittany's mother Sharon Murphy acted in the months after the actor's death, led plenty of people to believe there must be more to the story.

Two of those people were Brittany's father and brother. The former, Angelo Bertolotti, went so far as to sue Los Angeles County Coroner's Office. The lawsuit filing was exclusively obtained by RadarOnline. In it, Angelo says that the coroner's report must be wrong and that not enough testing was done to be sure of a cause of death. He wanted samples to conduct further tests on his own.

Brittany's brother Tony Bertolotti explained to The Sun in 2022, "My father had the blood work done, which found impurities in her blood including arsenic. There's no way she died of natural causes. It's impossible. ... It was obvious to me, she was taken out." Tony believes Sharon and a couple of other people who would benefit from Brittany's will had something to do with her sudden death, claiming, "There were huge amounts of money in [Brittany's] pension plan and bank account, and all of that's gone."

Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden as well as a successful solo artist, died by suicide in 2017. Just minutes before his body was found, he'd been speaking to his wife, Vicky Cornell, on the phone, and she could tell something was wrong — but that thing was not that he was about to kill himself but that he had taken medication that had messed him up. For this reason, she thinks it wasn't suicide so much as the negative effects of the prescription drugs in his system.

"He loved his life ... he would never have ever left this world. I don't think that he could make any decisions because of the level of impairment," Vicky told ABC News the year after his death. Speaking to Gayle King on her SiriusXM show "Gayle King in the House" in 2022, Vicky insisted, "Chris did not suffer suicidal ideation, and Chris was not even depressed. Chris was in recovery ... It came from nowhere."

After ruling it a suicide, Detroit police media relations director Michael Woody released a statement (via The Detroit News) that the department had been "inundated with different theories." He assured the public that, "We investigated all possible angles, and there were no signs this was anything but a suicide."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.


The death of NWA rapper Eazy-E in 1995 was shocking for several reasons. He was only 30, he'd checked into the hospital feeling unwell mere weeks before he died, and the underlying cause of death was AIDS. At the time, AIDS was still seen as a disease only contracted by gay men and intervenous drug users, categories Eazy-E did not fall into. His death was the first time the disease was talked about openly in hip-hop culture.

Eazy-E's family still doesn't believe it's that simple, though. In 2015, his son Marquise Wright posted on Instagram (via The Washington Post), "I've [always] known my pops was killed. His death never added up 2 what ppl have always said ..." 

In the 2021 docuseries "The Mysterious Death of Eazy-E," the rapper's daughter Erin Wright says, "I have never believed that my father died of full-blown AIDS. I have always believed that something else happened and I'm afraid of what that might be." Her mother Tracy Jernagin also thought things didn't add up about Eazy-E's death. While the series promised answers for both the women who were desperately looking for some, as well as the viewers, it was little more than "a sham of an investigation," as The Daily Beast called it in a review. The two women repeat some of the conspiracy theories they've heard about who might have killed the rapper, including his manager, Suge Knight, and the U.S. government. However, all had been thoroughly debunked long ago.

Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana

The death of Diana, princess of Wales, and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 was probably one of the most investigated accidents ever. Their driver, Henri Paul, was intoxicated, and the paparazzi aggressively trailing them made the situation even more dangerous until it ended in tragedy. Because Diana had recently divorced the then-prince of Wales, now King Charles III, some entertained conspiracy theories about her death, perhaps none more than Dodi Fayed's father, the businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed.

His lengthy testimony during the 2008 inquest into the car crash is one conspiracy theory after another. Al-Fayed claimed Diana was pregnant — although the autopsy showed no evidence of this — and that the pair were secretly engaged, although they only told him. Yet, somehow, the royal family also knew and killed her for it. On the stand, he said, "They know that she is pregnant, they know that she is going to be engaged, they know they are going to get married, and Prince Philip will not allow that, 100%."

While Prince Philip was the main villain in Al-Fayed's narrative, then-Prince Charles was implicated too. Al-Fayed claimed, "I am sure he knows what was going to happen because he would like to get on and marry his Camilla, and this is what happened. They cleared the decks. They finished her, they murdered her and now he is happy. He married his crocodile wife and he is happy with that."

Robert F. Kennedy

After the COVID-19 pandemic, Robert Kennedy Jr. is probably best known as a vaccine conspiracy theorist, who threw his hat in the ring to run for president in 2024 as a Democrat. However, he also does not believe the official story of how his own father was assassinated in 1968. While John F. Kennedy's death might get most of the conspiracy theory headlines, there are plenty of people who think things don't add up around Robert F. Kennedy Sr.'s murder as well.

Robert Sr. was shot by Sirhan Sirhan in the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel after a campaign event. As Robert Jr. told The Washington Post in 2018, having looked into the details of the assassination, he doesn't believe this was possible: "The people that were closest to [Sirhan], the people that disarmed him all said he never got near my father." He also believes the much-debated claims that there had to be a second shooter because of the number of bullets that could have been fired. "There were too many bullets," Robert Jr. said. "You can't fire 13 shots out of an eight-shot gun."

Robert Jr. even went so far as to visit Sirhan in prison, although he didn't tell the paper what the convicted assassin said to him. Nor is Robert Jr. the only member of his family to believe there are still questions to be answered. His sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend says, "Bobby makes a compelling case."

Martin Luther King Jr.

Minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. The King Center's official biography does mention his death, but it does not include the name of the assassin. This might be to avoid giving a murderer more attention — but it might also be because most members of the King family do not believe the man who was jailed for the assassination was actually responsible for it.

By 1997, James Earl Ray, who had confessed to shooting Martin Luther King Jr., was dying. He'd also changed his tune and claimed he was not the assassin, but a mysterious man named "Raoul" actually pulled the trigger. With Ray's time running out, Martin's son Dexter King went to visit him in prison. According to The Washington Post, Dexter asked Ray flat-out, "I just want to ask you for the record, did you kill my father?" "No, no, no, I didn't, no," Ray responded. 

Dexter assured him that the family believed his denial, and other members have spoken to that effect over the years. "It pains my heart," said Dexter's sister Bernice King to The Washington Post, "that James Earl Ray had to spend his life in prison paying for things he didn't do." And before her death, Martin's widow Coretta Scott King said, "There is abundant evidence of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband."