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Brittany Murphy Death (Photos): Toxic Drug Combination Likely Killed Her, Expert Tells CBS

(AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
(AP/Gregg DeGuire, PictureGroup)
LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) - Actress Brittany Murphy may have died the same way that Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, and Heath Ledger died - from a toxic combination of prescription drugs, which may or may not have been obtained legally, an expert pathologist told CBS News.

Photo: Brittany Murphy at Fashion Week, Feb. 5, 2008, in New York.

PICTURES: Brittany Murphy Dead at 32

Authorities said Monday it appeared Murphy, 32, died of natural causes on Dec. 20 after becoming ill with flu-like symptoms in the days before she collapsed in the bathroom of her Hollywood Hills home.

Celebrity site TMZ is reporting there were "large amounts of prescription medications" on the nightstand when paramedics arrived at her Hollywood home, and that Murphy was "complaining of shortness of breath and severe abdominal pain" in the week before she died.

"When you have a 32-year-old person dying suddenly, and especially a celebrity in Los Angeles, you can place your bet down that it's going prove to be a case of acute combined drug toxicity," pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht told CBS News' "The Early Show" Tuesday.

Photo: Brittany Murphy Dec. 1, 2009 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

PICTURES: Brittany Murphy Dead at 32

"I bet you that this young lady tragically died in the same way that Michael Jackson did, and Anna Nicole Smith, and her son, Daniel Smith, and Heath Ledger -- a combination of drugs that had been prescribed for her, prescribed for her husband, for her mother, in some fictitious names, probably by doctors who are very, very quick to make available anything that celebrities want, sometimes using knowingly fictitious names," Wecht said.

"So, even though these drugs are, quote, legal, unquote, they are, many times, illegally obtained. And it's a tragedy," Wecht said. "It's being played out everywhere in America every day, and we only come to know about it when it involves celebrities."

The coroner's report on Murphy's death has not been officially released, but on Tuesday, TMZ claimed to have viewed notes from an investigator from the L.A. County Coroner's office who worked on the case.

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter says he doesn't know how the site apparently obtained parts of the confidential report. His office is now investigating.

According to TMZ, an investigator, who is only identified by last name, noted that numerous bottles of prescription medications were found in Murphy's name at the Hollywood Hills home where she collapsed Sunday.

Winter says he couldn't confirm details about the report because he hadn't yet seen the form that lists the medications taken from Murphy's home.

A full toxicology report is still pending.

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PICTURES: Brittany Murphy Dead at 32

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