B.B. King Coroner's Report: No Evidence of Poisoning

Bluesman died of natural causes, concluding coroner's investigation

A Las Vegas coroner's report found that B.B. King showed no traces of poisoning at the time of his May 14th death and that the blues legend died of natural causes. Clark County coroner John Fudenberg tells Rolling Stone that Alzheimer's disease was the "primary contributing factor" in the musician's death, with type 2 diabetes, coronary artery atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, hypertension and cerebral vascular disease acting as "significant contributing factors." "There was no evidence of poisoning," Fudenberg says.

Fudenberg's findings contradict allegations by two of King's daughters, Patty King and Karen Williams, that his manager LaVerne Torey and his longtime assistant Myron Johnson hastened the bluesman's death by administering an unknown substance to King in the weeks before his death. "I believe my father was poisoned and that he was administered foreign substances. I believe my father was murdered," King and Williams said in court documents. Prior to B.B. King's funeral, Nevada officials ordered an autopsy to ascertain whether there was any truth to the poisoning allegations.

"It is unfortunate that Mr. King's body had to be subjected to a needless autopsy based upon fictional assertions," Brent Bryson, a lawyer for the B.B. King estate, said in a statement. "As expected, the autopsy report confirms that Mr. King died as a result of natural causes, and not as the result of poisoning or other wrongful conduct by Louise LaVerne Toney, Myron Johnson or anyone else. Both Ms. Toney and Mr. Johnson are happy that the spurious and disparaging allegations made by certain of Mr. King's children against them, have been dispelled. Perhaps we can now focus on the body of musical work Mr. King left the world and stop the 'witch hunt' so that Mr. King may now finally rest in peace."

Larissa Drohobyczer, the attorney representing Patty King and Williams, maintains that her clients will remain investigating their father's death. "My clients are reviewing the autopsy results carefully and will continue to move forward with all due diligence necessary to ensure their father was properly treated in his last days," Drohobyczer tells Rolling Stone. "My clients will also continue to ensure (through the Clark County Court) that all of Laverne Toney's past and present actions relating to Mr. King's estate and affairs are properly handled."

Torey and some of King's 11 surviving children have long sparred over the bluesman's estate, with three of the King children taking his manager to court in April to argue over power of attorney. Following King's death, Torey was named the administrator of his estate, which could be worth tens of millions of dollars. After Torey and Johnson were accused of poisoning by King's daughters, Bryson labeled the claims as "baseless," "ridiculous" and "extremely disrespectful." Torey herself dismissed the allegations, saying "They've been making allegations all along. What's new?"

Fudenberg tells Rolling Stone that the disclosure of the autopsy results "concludes our investigation." With the coroner's report showing no poisoning, it's unclear how King's daughters will proceed. While King's family can legally hire a private forensic pathologist to conduct an independent autopsy, they have yet to announce any future plans.