Detectives found large quantities of general anesthetic and dozens of tubes of skin-whitening creams in Michael Jackson's home after the singer's death, search warrants unsealed Friday show.
Investigators went to Jackson's rented mansion June 29 following a lengthy interview with his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, who told them he had placed a medical bag in a cupboard in a closet.
At the home, detectives found 11 containers of the powerful anesthetic propofol, some of them empty, as well as a range of sedatives and various medical items including a box of blood pressure cuffs, according to the warrants, which were redacted and unsealed after The Associated Press filed a legal motion.
Jackson's June 25 death at age 50 was ruled a homicide caused by an overdose of propofol and other sedatives. Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
During their search, detectives found 19 tubes of hydroquinone and 18 tubes of Benoquin, both of which are commonly used in the treatment of a skin condition Jackson had called vitiligo. The disease creates patches of de-pigmented skin, and creams can be used to lighten skin that has retained its color to give a more even appearance.
"Some people with vitiligo get to the point where there is so much of them that is pale, it makes more sense to remove the bits that are brown," said Dr. David Sawcer, assistant professor of clinical dermatology at the University of Southern California.
Benoquin is derived from hydroquinone. Though the creams can be used at the same time, it is unusual to do so, Sawcer said. The medications typically come in travel-toothpaste-sized tubes and each treatment usually lasts a few months. Side effects include acute sensitivity to the sun.
"In the places they have no pigment, they are exactly like an albino," Sawcer said.
The discovery of medical creams in Jackson's home dovetails with an odd remark Murray reportedly made soon after Jackson's death.
According to police statements obtained by the AP, Jackson's personal assistant, Michael Amir Williams, told detectives that in the hospital where Jackson was pronounced dead, Murray told him he wanted to return to Jackson's house "so that he could pick up some cream that Mr. Jackson has so that the world wouldn't find out about it."
Alberto Alvarez, Jackson's logistics director, who was summoned to the stricken star's side as he was dying, told police Murray interrupted CPR on the pop star to collect drug vials. He gave the vials and an IV line with a milky substance resembling propofol to Alvarez, according to the statement Alvarez gave police, and told him to put them in bags that were similar in description to those later found in the closet.
The skin cream was not listed as a factor in Jackson's death nor was it detected in a toxicology report. What killed Jackson, according to the autopsy report, was an overdose of propofol, an anesthetic normally used for surgery. Murray told police he gave it to Jackson to help him sleep, a use anesthesiology experts have said is grossly improper.
Dr. Zeev Kain, anesthesiology department chair at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, said he was surprised by the amount of propofol detectives found. Among the 11 containers police said they found were three 100ml vials, which Kain said could be used as general anesthesia for several hours.
"A doctor should not use propofol at home to start with," Kain said.
The warrants also show Murray shipped propofol and other medications to his girlfriend Nicole Alvarez's house in Santa Monica. It's unusual to send propofol to a private residence but not illegal.