A few months before Brittany Murphy married Simon Monjack, says a former friend of the star's, several people who knew Murphy well sat the actress, her mom, Sharon, and Monjack down for what the source calls an "intervention." Afraid Murphy had become isolated by her new boyfriend, the group confronted the trio with information that Monjack had had financial troubles, had spent time in immigration detention and had been married before. "I said, 'Brittany, you have no friends left that you had before you met him,'" says the source, adding that Murphy listened to everything then politely responded, "I appreciate you caring, but Simon can explain it all."
Asked about the alleged incident today, Sharon Murphy says, "I don't remember anything close to that happening." While she says she had "no idea" that Monjack was married before (court records indicate he wed Simone Bienne on Nov. 10, 2001, in Las Vegas), she defends her son-in-law: "Whatever he did, my daughter knew. They had no secrets."
But in the wake of Murphy's death at 32 on Dec. 20, her short life seems ever more shrouded in mystery. On Feb. 4 the L.A. County coroner concluded that Murphy died as a result of pneumonia combined with anemia and "multiple drug intoxication" from prescription and over-the-counter medication—and that her death would have been preventable had she only seen a doctor (see box). Monjack told PEOPLE he was "ridiculously upset" by the report and by any implication that he or Sharon, who lived with the couple in their Hollywood Hills house, neglected Brittany's care. "I did nothing but support, love and be there for my wife," he says. "She got all the medical care she requested."
The coroner ruled her death an accident, and that office and the police have closed the case. Yet its circumstances have cast a spotlight on Monjack, 39, a London-bred businessman with a mysterious past (see box). Alternately grief-stricken, pointed and vague when answering questions about his wife and his own history, he refutes reports that Brittany was addicted to prescription drugs (some 10 prescriptions were reportedly found in the home). "My wife was not abusing prescription drugs that I was aware of," he says. Of a report that she had prescriptions delivered to their home under the alias Lola, he says, "not that I'm aware of." In a Jan. 13 interview with PEOPLE, he said the seizure medication Klonopin—also used to combat anxiety—had been on hand for his own seizures; he now says the medicine was for him as well as Brittany, who he said suffered a seizure on the set of her 2002 movie 8 Mile.
But those who were close to Murphy prior to her 2007 marriage say there had been red flags about the actress's well-being in recent years. Several former friends say Murphy had long battled feelings of paranoia. "[Monjack] would agree that people were out to get her, but he'd say, 'Don't worry, I'll take care of you.' He fed into that," says a source. Another former friend says that Murphy often complained of feeling ill but "wasn't good at taking care of herself" and that she was stressed about finances: "She felt she didn't have time to be sick." ("Simon was supporting her," counters Sharon. "He paid for everything.")
Monjack says his main concern is now Sharon. "It's time to look after my mother-in-law," he says. "All this rumor and conjecture—it kills her, you know?" Of his detractors, he says, "I used to think it was jealousy. But I don't know now ... there's nothing in my life to be jealous of."
- Sara Hammel/Los Angeles,
- J.D. Heyman/Los Angeles,
- Lisa Ingrassia/Los Angeles,
- Ken Lee/Los Angeles.