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Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014

Friend: James Gandolfini died of heart attack


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ROME - An autopsy on James Gandolfini has found that the "Sopranos" star died of a heart attack, with no evidence of substance abuse or foul play, a family spokesman said Friday.

Michael Kobold told reporters that Gandolfini's body has been released to a funeral director and that the family was working with the Italian government to speed up the bureaucratic red tape to get the body back to the United States soon.

While the process can take up to 10 days, Kobold said the family was hoping to have the body repatriated by mid-week with a funeral planned in New York by June 29 at the latest.

Gandolfini, 51, died Wednesday night. His body was discovered in a Rome hotel room by a family member.

He had arrived in Rome on Tuesday and spent his first full day in the Eternal City with his teen-age son, visiting the Vatican and staying at the luxury Boscolo Exedra hotel. They dined together in the hotel on Wednesday night, awaiting the arrival in Rome of Gandolfini's sister, Leta.

"He had a wonderful day," Kobold said of the father-son vacation.

Asked if Gandolfini had a history of heart problems, Kobold said he was healthy.

"There's nothing out of the ordinary. It was a heart attack. It was a natural cause," he said in response to questions about the autopsy. "There was no foul play, no substance abuse. None of that."

The Associated Press couldn't independently confirm the results of the autopsy, and it wasn't clear if Italian officials would independently release them.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Monday in Gandolfini's memory.

The governor's order says Gandolfini was an iconic actor who "left a timeless impact upon television and film in the state of New Jersey and across our nation."

Gandolfini was born in Westwood, N.J., grew up in Park Ridge and attended Rutgers, the state's flagship public university.

The governor says the actor was also an advocate, in two documentaries, for U.S. servicemen and women and veterans.

Christie has called Gandolfini a "New Jersey treasure."

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