Bay Area remembers Robin Williams as kind, normal

Byby ABC7 News staff via KGO logo
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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Struggling with depression, officials say Robin Williams tried to cut his wrist and hanged himself in a bedroom of his Marin Co. home.

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- New details were released Tuesday on the apparent suicide of beloved actor and Bay Area resident Robin Williams. The famed comedian was found dead in his home in Tiburon on Monday.

The story is one that's being felt across the world, but especially in Marin County where the actor grew up, went to high school, first appeared on a stage, and died.

On Tuesday a blend of warm memories mixed with difficult facts as the details from the coroner's preliminary investigation were released.

"The preliminary cause of death is asphyxia due to hanging," said Marin County Sheriff's Lt. Keith Boyd.

VIDEO: Marin Co. Sheriff's news conference on Robin Williams' death

In Marin County, the sheriff's department said it is handling Williams' death like any other examination. But clearly, it's more than that. Reporters from around the world listened to every small detail.

Boyd said Williams was last seen alive by his wife Sunday night when she went to bed. She woke up the next morning and left, thinking he was still asleep elsewhere in the home.

Shortly after that, Williams' personal assistant came to the Tiburon home and became concerned when Williams failed to respond to knocks at a door. The assistant found the 63-year-old actor clothed and dead in a bedroom.

"At that time the personal assistant was able to gain access to Mr. Williams' bedroom and entered the bedroom to find Mr. Williams clothed, in a seated position, unresponsive, with a belt secured around his neck, and the other end wedged between the closed closet door and the door frame," Boyd said. "His right shoulder area was touching the door, with his body perpendicular to the door and slightly suspended."

Boyd said all evidence indicates Williams, star of "Good Will Hunting," ''Mrs. Doubtfire," ''Good Morning, Vietnam" and dozens of other films, committed suicide by hanging himself. But he said a final ruling will be made once toxicology reports and interviews with witnesses are complete.

PHOTOS: Robin Williams' life and career throughout the years

The condition of the body indicated Williams had been dead for at least a few hours, Boyd said. Williams also had superficial cuts on his wrist, and a pocketknife was found nearby.

Williams had been seeking treatment for depression, Boyd said. He would not say whether the actor left a suicide note.

"We still have people we want to speak with so there is some information we're going to withhold," Boyd said. "We're not discussing the note or a note at this point as the investigation is ongoing."

It's hardly the end anyone would have predicted for an actor/comedian who touched so many people.

James Dunn taught Robin Williams in in drama classes at College of Marin. He says that back then, he seemed exactly the opposite.

"This was a very very kind, sweet man who never said a bad word about anybody and I never heard a bad word about him," he said.

That was in the early 1970s, before "Mork & Mindy," before the Oscar, before fame. The kid from Tiburon wanted to be an actor, and he succeeded at that.

"I believe he will go down in history as a major artist like Chaplain," Dunn said. "He will be remembered as well as Chaplain."

Bay Area memorials to Robin Williams grow

Tributes to Robin Williams have been growing since word of his death broke.

Flowers are being dropped off on the front steps of his Marin County home in Tiburon. People in the community are remembering him as a brilliant actor and as an all-around good neighbor.

The Correll family stopped by the actor's home Tuesday morning to say a final goodbye.

"Just an amazing guy," said Tiburon resident Agne Correll. "Sometimes biking through, I have a business in Mill Valley, he'd used to come with a cup of coffee and just say hi. Just an amazing, good person. We've seen him at the Mill Valley comedy theater. It's just sad, I don't know what else to say.

Neighbors say Williams wasn't a celebrity there, just a kind and unpretentious man.

VIDEO: Robin Williams remembered by neighbors in Tiburon

Residents and fans started leaving flowers and notes in front of his gate Monday, including a note from a child named Fletcher who wrote, "I love Mrs. Doubtfire."

On Tuesday morning, a 13-year-old boy from San Rafael stopped by with flowers.

"He was in one of my favorite movies, 'Jumanji,' he was a really great actor," said the teen.

Williams' wife has asked for privacy while the family grieves, and some neighbors told us they are honoring that request and choosing not to speak out at this time. They say it's a close block and that this is a very difficult time. Those who admired him around town agree that this is tough to accept.

"He was just a regular guy," one resident said. "And just still shocking that he wasn't happy somewhere deep in there to end his life like that, cause he will be really missed."

Williams' family is in seclusion. The actor's wife asked in a statement that the focus be on the joy that Williams brought to millions of people. That's certainly what the community of Tiburon is zeroing in on. They say if you ever had the pleasure of meeting him, he made you feel important.

Robin Kwok of Heroes Club, a unique toy store in San Francisco's Inner Richmond, formed a friendship with Williams over the years. He says the Academy Award winning actor often came in there looking for rare action figures. Kwok texted him Sunday.

VIDEO: Bay Area residents share fond memories of Robin Williams

"I did not hear from him," Kwok said. "And usually when I text message him or I call him I hear from him or acknowledge the same day."

He was shocked to find out the next day that his friend and customer was dead.

"I can't believe it is real," said Kwok. "I mean, because I have known him for all these years."

Williams' death feels personal to many in the Bay Area. He was often seen at local shops, with signed pictures proudly displayed on many restaurant walls.

The actor was a longtime supporter of the San Francisco Zoo, where a howler monkey was just named after him in June.

Zoo officials released a statement expressing sadness and thanking Williams for bringing joy to people across the world.

Williams enjoyed his quiet time, too. The actor often ducked away in a little Thai restaurant in Sausalito with his wife.

"He was quiet, because everybody was looking at him," said one restaurant worker.

Another added, "He was very funny, very nice guy."

Staff at Sunshine Bicycle Center in Fairfax say Williams came in there often and that they could hear his booming voice from down the road.

"You get used to see him riding his bike around or over at the java," said Gordon Murrey with Sunshine Bicycle Center. "It's just kind of weird to know that you're never going to see him again."

Rory Enke worked as a location manager on many films with Williams.

"We saw the gift," Enke said. "I mean, he had the gift of laughter."

His favorite memory -- after a hard week working on "Bicentennial Man," Williams broke the tension by acting as an air traffic controller for pigeons in the park.

"And he had a voice and a name for every bird," Enke said. "And I will cherish that for all my days."

Enke says Williams was funny, but never stopped being professional, humble, and kind.

In San Francisco, more flowers are being left on the steps of the home where the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire" was filmed. Williams loved San Francisco. Despite earning his place in Hollywood, he considered the Bay Area his home.

The owner of the "Mrs. Doubtfire" house spoke to ABC7 News on Tuesday.

The homeowner is taking a very philosophical view of the steady of stream of visitors who've been coming to the house to take pictures of the memorial or leave flowers.

Some of the visitors have come from as far away as Sweden and the U.K. They have something in common with local visitors and fellow Robin Williams fans.

"Mrs. Doubtfire" was not only a light comedy, it showcased the actor's range.

VIDEO: 'Mrs. Doubtfire' homeowner talks to ABC7 News

"It's a very tragic loss," said fan Alexandra Psorojeinni. "He was a great actor and I think many, many people looked up to him and so did I."

"We decided we had to come today because it's our last day here," said tourist Pat Mendes. "So we walked a long way from Geary and Van Ness to come and see, pay our tribute to him."

"I'm not about to change anything and it's all deserved isn't it?" said homeowner Douglas Ousterhout. "Not to me, not to the house, but to him."

Ousterhout, a local surgeon, says he will not remove the growing tribute of flowers and mementos. He says brilliance is something that's very rare, and once you've seen it, it's only fair to pay honor to it and give people time to mourn.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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