Oscar-winning actor and groundbreaking comedian Robin Williams hanged himself with a belt in his Northern California home after he had sought treatment for depression, a coroner said on Tuesday based on preliminary findings.
Williams, 63, was found dead by his personal assistant at midday on Monday in a bedroom. He was suspended from a belt wedged between a closet door and a door frame, in a seated position just off the ground, Marin County's assistant chief deputy coroner, Keith Boyd, told a news conference.
"Mr. Williams' personal assistant became concerned at approximately 11:45 a.m. when he failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door," said Boyd.
"His right shoulder area was touching the door with his body perpendicular to the door and slightly suspended. Mr. Williams at that time was cool to the touch with rigor mortis present in his body," Boyd added.
The official preliminary cause of death was asphyxia due to hanging, he said, and conclusion of the investigation is still weeks away.
Officials also found a pocket knife near Williams and superficial cuts on his left wrist with dried red material that matched what was on the knife blade. It was not yet known if it was his blood.
Williams was last seen alive by his wife, Susan Schneider, on Sunday night when she retired for the evening. She left the next morning around 10 a.m. thinking that her husband was still asleep.
Williams' publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said on Monday that he had been suffering from severe depression, and Boyd acknowledged that he had been seeking treatment without giving more details.
Boyd would not say whether Williams had left a suicide note.
"We're not discussing the note or a note at this point as the investigation is ongoing," said Boyd.
In addition to his wife, Williams is survived by three children. Funeral arrangements are pending. His body has been released by the coroner facility in neighbouring Napa County, Boyd said.
Boyd would not say if any drugs or alcohol were involved and that the full toxicology report would take two to six weeks.
COMEDY WORLD MOURNS
Comedians, politicians and several generations of fans collectively mourned the death of Williams, famous for his frenetically paced comedy and masterful impressions.
The news of Williams' death rippled across social media, stunning fans young and old and comedians who had been influenced by Williams since he broke out in the 1970's TV comedy "Mork & Mindy" as a strange and lovable creature from outer space.
"Goodbye pal. Thanks for everything," tweeted comedian Louis C.K. on Tuesday.
Williams had been open about his struggles with alcohol and cocaine and in the past months had entered a rehabilitation centre to help him maintain sobriety.
But many questions remained over his final months and what could have led to his apparent suicide.
On the Hollywood Walk of Fame, dozens of fans congregated around Williams' star early on Tuesday, leaving flowers and candles to honour the versatile actor.
"My kids grew up on 'Mrs Doubtfire'," said Erlinda Fantauzzi, referring to the hit movie in which he played a father who took on the persona of a tender British nanny to be close to his kids. "I feel so bad. He was a tortured soul and he died alone. He touched adults and children," she said.
Williams' appeal stretched across generations and genres, from family fare as the voice of Disney's blue Genie in "Aladdin" to his portrayal of a fatherly therapist in the 1997 drama "Good Will Hunting," for which he earned his sole Oscar.
The death of Williams shook Hollywood and colleagues mourned the loss of what many called a big-hearted man and one of the most inventive comedians of his time.
Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played his daughter in the recent CBS television comedy, "The Crazy Ones," said her life was better for knowing Williams. Their show was cancelled in May after one season.
"To my children he was Uncle Robin, to everyone he worked with, he was the best boss anyone had ever known, and to me he was not just an inspiration but he was the father I had always dreamed of having," Gellar said in a statement.