09.09.12

Porn Star Death Mystery Deepens

Almost five months after adult-film star Marland Anderson mysteriously died after a struggle with L.A. police, the coroner’s report raises more questions than it answers. Maria Elena Fernandez and Christine Pelisek report.

Forty-eight minutes after porn star Marland A. Anderson walked away from his suburban Los Angeles apartment and into an ambulance with a police officer, a paramedic and a driver, he arrived at Northridge Medical Center in full cardiac arrest, unconscious, and in critical condition, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office final report about the 39-year-old’s mysterious death last April.

The report, released late Friday, raises even more questions about the time Anderson spent in custody, leaving open the issue of whether officers’ actions contributed to his death. It also brings up an incident in which the porn star, who went by the screen name Sledge Hammer, allegedly tried to hang himself—which police had not previously disclosed.

Anderson’s girlfriend called police on April 9 because he had been depressed for several days, was suffering from insomnia and paranoia, and was threatening to kill himself with a knife that morning. Alexa Cruz’s hope was that Anderson would be hospitalized and treated by a psychiatrist.

Instead, Anderson slipped into a coma and later died when his mother took him off a respirator on April 13. As part of the autopsy investigation, the coroner determined that Anderson died from “neck compression” that “involved considerable force.” But the coroner could not pinpoint how and when the injury occurred. A ligature mark found around Anderson’s neck was consistent with a belt, according to the autopsy report.

“We find that forcible compression by a belt, accompanied by considerable force, could have caused the internal injuries of the neck organs. Such compression can be fatal,” the report states.

In an interview with The Daily Beast after Anderson’s death, Cruz never mentioned that Anderson had ever attempted to hang himself with a belt. Five years ago, she said, he tried to kill himself by ingesting ibuprofen and hydrogen peroxide. Cruz declined to be interviewed again, stating that she wants to stop reliving the way her boyfriend of three-and-a-half years passed away. But she has maintained that Anderson left “peacefully” with the police and paramedics, a fact the autopsy report supports.

Although the coroner could not determine when the hanging incident allegedly happened, Anderson was “alive” and “conscious”  when police and fire department officers arrived at his apartment. “Although the physical findings show that a belt was at one point around Mr. Anderson’s neck, it is not confirmed that this belt was the cause of the internal injuries to Mr. Anderson’s neck organs.”

Anderson’s best friend, Stoney Curtis, who directed many of his porn films, said Friday that no one had brought up a hanging incident with him.

“He might have, but that doesn’t matter because he was more than alive and healthy and fine when he walked out the door,” Curtis says. “When they got him to the hospital he was dead, virtually. He walked out on his own and he was breathing just fine. And when he got there about an hour later, he was virtually dead. So it doesn’t take a genius to figure out he was choked out or strangled out or whatever. They cut off his air supply, whatever they did to him.”

The report raises those possibilities as well. “These injuries could also have resulted from a struggle or from manual strangulation. Our review of the police documentation did not demonstrate any neck compression occurring during the police struggle with Mr. Anderson. However, such a possibility has not been ruled out,” it states.

The sad turn of events began when police responded to Cruz’s call for help at the couple’s Canoga Park apartment at 3:24 a.m. on April 9. According to the report, Anderson had consumed a bottle of brandy and six over-the-counter sleeping aid tablets to try to induce sleep, and told police he was fighting with his girlfriend. But he cooperated with police and walked out with them to an ambulance, where he was handcuffed on both wrists to a gurney, the report states.

“He kept asking me not to call the police because he was proud of his perfect record,” Cruz told The Daily Beast in April. “But I told him, ‘I’m just trying to get you to a hospital.’ When they came, he came out peacefully and just kept telling them he was very tired, over and over again. I told them that I thought he was very out of it and just needed to be put to sleep because he was so exhausted.”

However, en route to Northridge Medical Center, Anderson became “agitated” and wanted to leave the ambulance, according to police. They said he broke one of the handcuffs from the gurney, dislodged his IV, and began to struggle with a paramedic and police officer.

The ambulance pulled over. Another officer, who was following the ambulance, attempted to “stun” Anderson in the chest, but the 216-pound actor kicked the stun gun out of his hand, the report states. The officer quickly called for back up.

When several other officers arrived, they removed Anderson from the ambulance through the side door and put him on the ground on his stomach, with his arms handcuffed behind his back. A second officer attempted to “stun gun” him on the thigh but failed to make contact, the report says.

'These injuries could also have resulted from a struggle or from manual strangulation,' the autopsy report states.

As Anderson was being loaded back on the ambulance to go to the hospital, a paramedic noticed his pulse was weak and his respiratory rate was decreased, according to the report, and by the time Anderson reached the hospital, he was in full cardiac arrest. In the emergency room, Anderson was administered CPR, intubated, and given cardiac life-support medications. Although his pulse was restored, he could not breathe on his own and he remained unconscious, according to the final autopsy report.

“The mechanism and timing of the fatal neck compression could not be determined with medical certainty,” the report concludes. “For that reason, the manner of death is diagnosed as undetermined.”

The Los Angeles Police Department Force Investigation Unit, however, has not closed its case regarding the incident. Because the investigation is ongoing, the police department declined a request from The Daily Beast to review its records. According to Anderson’s friends, his family has hired a lawyer.