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The assistant became concerned about 11:45 a.m. Monday after Williams, 63, failed to answer knocks at his bedroom door, said Marin County Sheriff's Lt. Keith Boyd, the assistant chief deputy coroner, according to reports in the San Francisco Chronicle and other San Francisco-area news media.
Williams' wife had left the home about 10:30 a.m., believing he was still sleeping, Boyd said.
The assistant entered the room and found Williams clothed, in a seated position and "unresponsive with a belt secured around his neck, with the other end of the belt wedged between the clothes 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."
Williams was "cold to the touch," Boyd said.
He had last been seen alive by his wife about 10:30 p.m. Sunday, when she retired to a bedroom, Boyd said. Williams was in a separate room, he said.
Investigators found superficial cuts on the inside of Williams' left wrist. They also found a pocketknife with its blade closed and what looked like dried blood on it, Boyd said.
The beloved performer, who had been seeking treatment for depression, apparently died of "asphyxia due to hanging," Boyd said.
The autopsy, conducted today by a Marin County sheriff's forensic pathologist at a Napa County morgue did not reveal any evidence of a struggle or a physical altercation, Boyd said.
Boyd would not discuss whether any suicide note was left. He offered condolences to Williams' family on behalf of his agency.
Toxicology testing, which could take two to six weeks, will determine whether Williams had any chemical substances in his system at the time of his death, Boyd said. The final cause of death won't be finalized until after all testing is done, he said.
Williams had recently battled severe depression, said Mara Buxbaum, his press agent. He had fought cocaine and alcohol addiction but had spoken little about mental illness.
This summer, Williams admitted himself into the Hazelden rehab center in Minnesota to "fine-tune" his sobriety, according to representatives.
The news of Williams' death shocked the nation and the world, with fans flocking to his Tiburon home, his former home in the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco and the Pacific Heights house where "Mrs. Doubtfire" was filmed to leave flowers and messages.