Patton Oswalt: How Did Michelle McNamara Die?

Patton Oswalt has a theory about Michelle McNamara’s cause of death. The details surrounding his wife’s passing is very upsetting. The 47-year-old actor opened up to the New York Times in a candid interview. Although the coroner has not revealed the official cause of death, Patton believes his wife died of a drug overdose.

“I have a feeling it might have been an overdose… that’s what the paramedics there were saying while I was screaming and throwing up.”

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Patton Oswalt and wife, Michelle McNamara. [Image by John Shearer/Getty Images for LACMA]

Michelle McNamara, a 46-year-old true-crime writer, was stressed out over a book she was working on. The Golden State Killer is a name she coined while working on a book about a man who raped and murdered dozens of victims. The killer remains at large. McNamara placed years of investigative reporting into these unsolved murders. Michelle believed she was close to tracking the killer down and was working long days and nights. This obsessive determination increased her anxiety.

“We can finish the book, but it was tangential to the work, which was: She was going to solve this crime… She didn’t want credit for it. She wanted him to be locked up. She was close to figuring it out. It would give her bad nightmares.”

Oswalt has committed himself to finishing his wife’s book. He is now working with a researcher and journalist.

“In comic-book terms… I was married to a great crime fighter.”

The night before her passing, Oswalt was worried about McNamara’s health and told her to “sleep until you wake up,” a phrase they used to describe the luxury for working parents of a 7-year-old girl.

McNamara took Xanax and went to bed, according to the New York Times.

The morning of April 22, Patton woke early to take their 7-year-old daughter Alice to school. He brought home an Americano coffee for McNamara. Oswalt set the coffee on the bedside table at around 9:40 a.m.

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Michelle McNamara and Patton Oswalt. [Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]

Patton began doing some work inside his home office, letting McNamara get some rest. Oswalt went to check on his wife for a second time at 12:42 p.m. He then realized she was not breathing. McNamara was pronounced dead by paramedics upon arrival. The Emmy winner, still struggling to cope with the devastating loss of his wife, told the New York Times how he tried to shake off the nightmare.

“I was literally blinking trying to get out of this.”

The following days after his wife’s death, the stand-up comic said he tried to cope by turning to alcohol. Patton decided to channel his energy into his stand-up comedy routines. His next performance will take place at the New York Comedy Festival on Thursday, November 3.

“[Performing was] a rebuke to grief, an acceptance of the messiness of life… I’ll never be at 100 percent again, but that won’t stop me from living this.”


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Patton revealed how he prevented himself from succumbing to the clutches of depression.

“Depression is more seductive. Its tool is: ‘Wouldn’t it be way more comfortable to stay inside and not deal with people?’ Grief is an attack on life. It’s not a seducer. It’s an ambush or worse. It stands right out there and says: ‘The minute you try something, I’m waiting for you.'”

It wasn’t easy doing stand-up comedy after his wife died. Though he felt shameful, Patton continued to move forward. Oswalt says the performances weren’t great, but they provided solace and a sense of accomplishment after his loss.

“I projected onto the audience: Your wife is dead and you’re telling jokes? What’s wrong with you?”

How does he help his 7-year-old daughter deal with the death of her mother? Since McNamara’s death, Oswalt told the New York Times, every night he sits with his daughter and writes down three things they remember about Michelle.

“It keeps this living portrait of her.”

[Featured Image by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]