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The David Carradine Mystery

June 8, 2009
By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

The late David Carradine was an actor with a marquee name. He was the son of legendary actor John Carradine.

Although David had a successful career that spanned from Broadway to Hollywood, he was best known for playing Caine, a martial-arts specialist who wandered through the Old West in the television series, “Kung Fu.”

Unfortunately, Carradine may ultimately be remembered for the manner in which he died.

When reports first surfaced that a maid found Carradine hanging in the closet of his Bangkok hotel suite, rumors of a possible suicide began to appear in the press.

But a manager of the hotel indicated that Carradine appeared anything but suicidal in the days leading up to his death.

Aurelio Giraudo told People magazine that the actor spent days at the hotel playing piano for other guests.

“He was a great piano player,” Giraudo said. “He was a man full of life. He was a very happy man. His face is smiling. A big smile.”

Chuck Binder, Carradine’s manager, said, “I don't think he was suicidal by any stretch of the imagination.”

Longtime pal and fellow actor Michael Madsen told the CBS “Early Show” that depression “wasn't really a part of Carradine's makeup.”

Facts of the case remain unsettled, and reports are in conflict with one another. Some indicate that a cord of assorted descriptions was wrapped around Carradine's private parts while others claim that his hands were bound behind his back.

Investigators have said there was no indication that other people had been in the actor’s room.

Thai police claimed to have seen surveillance footage that showed no evidence of anyone entering Carradine's hotel room prior to his death; this would seem to eliminate foul play.

But none of the reports can be confirmed — yet.

A police officer handling the case told Reuters that the investigation is ongoing, witnesses are being interviewed, and blood tests will be completed in about three weeks.

“Then we can wrap this case up,” the Thai officer said.

Meanwhile, Carradine's family has hired celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos to seek a broader probe of the case. Geragos in turn has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get involved and has filed a formal request to have the FBI contact authorities in Thailand for further information.

This is now officially an international criminal incident. The Thai authorities are required to invite the FBI into the investigation in order to grant jurisdiction.

A photo of Carradine’s body was published on the cover of a Thai tabloid and as a result his family has threatened legal action against any further distribution of pictures of the death scene.

The actor’s body was released into U.S. Embassy custody and has been flown back home. A second autopsy will be conducted. Geragos has confirmed that the family has hired forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to handle the U.S. autopsy.

Carradine was set to star in “Portland,” a film drama whose lead role will now have to be recast.

The actor had been in Thailand filming the movie “Stretch.”

It seems that the tragic ending of Carradine’s life will remain shrouded in mystery at least for now.

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Copyright © 2009
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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