Who Killed River Phoenix?
The fatal overdose of River Phoenix on Halloween night leaves hanging a host of questions concerning his death. Why is it, for instance, that three days later medical examiners announced that autopsy tests were inconclusive - but ruled out foul play. If the cause of death was unknown, how could the coroner possibly dismiss the possibility of murder? Toxicology tests revealed that the morphine levels of the cocaine and heroin ingested by Phoenix were respectively lethal. The day after he overdosed, the question reverberated on Hollywood streets: "Who killed River Phoenix?"
The conclusion that Phoenix died of an accidental overdose seems premature. No one knows how the narcotics were administered. No needle marks were found. The identity of his supplier is known. He is not some shadow melting back into narco-obscurity. Five witnesses, according to unconfirmed reports, accompanied Phoenix to a West Hollywood apartment at 10:40 p.m., on October 30, before departing for the Viper Room. One homosexual Los Angeles tabloid reported that the drug dealer who gave Phoenix the fatal dose "has been seen back in action at the club." If so, why wasn't he so much as questioned by police?
Media interest in the Family was eroded by false reports that Argentine prosecutors had been hamstrung by a lack of medical evidence. In fact, the death of River Phoenix coincided with investigations of the Family spreading across Latin America. The last thing the cult needed was a popular junkie film star shattering the news vacuum in the U.S. media by expanding, in some Hollywood fanzine, on his sexual initiation in a cult with notorious international political connections.
In fact, River Phoenix had a reputation for talking too much. In the press, the Phoenix family has distanced itself from Berg's flock, emphasizing their separation from the Children of God. "We were flower children," John Phoenix (River's father, who refuses to tell reporters his true name) told People magazine in September, 1987: "We were full of faith and loved everybody." John Phoenix was so deeply rooted in the cult that he was named "Archbishop of Venezuela" by the group. Rainbow Phoenix, River's sister, told Life in August, 1987 that she debuted as a performer at South American shopping plazas. "We used to sing and hand out pamphlets," she said. "But after two years in Venezuela, the family wanted out of the cult." Arlene Phoenix, River's mother, complained, 'the guy running it got crazy. He sought to attract rich disciples through sex. No way.'"
The veneer of bohemian innocence was shattered in 1991 when, in Details magazine, River recalled his childhood in the cult. He admitted in this interview that he had intercourse at age four and sex with other children until the age of 10.
River Phoenix violated the cult's stricture of secrecy by discussing his early sexuality with reporters. Two years later, on All Hallow's Eve, at the most critical period in the Family's history, he was poisoned with a drug overdose. Had he lived, River Phoenix could have proven to be a dangerous liability to the cult, confirming reports of sexual abuse and child prostitution circulating throughout South America, but largely snubbed by the domestic press. Moses Berg's Family sleeps with powerful political allies.
Did one of them have reason to silence River Phoenix?