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'Real Housewives' husband apparently kills himself, authorities say

By Alan Duke, CNN
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Russell: Pressure to seem rich too much?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Lawyer: "I'm 100% convinced" the reality TV role created his depression
  • Russell Armstrong appears to be "a suicide by hanging," police say
  • Armstrong apparently left no suicide note, the coroner says
  • He and reality show cast member Taylor Armstrong were divorcing

Tune in to HLN's "Dr. Drew" at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday for more on Russell Armstrong and what could have caused him apparently to take his own life.

Los Angeles (CNN) -- The estranged husband of "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" cast member Taylor Armstrong apparently killed himself in his home, according to police and the Los Angeles county coroner's office.

Russell Armstrong's lawyer said he's "100% convinced" Armstrong's role in the reality show created his depression, but he does not blame the Bravo network for his death.

Investigators did not find a suicide note near the body of Armstrong, 47, who was pronounced dead at 8:16 p.m. Monday, Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said Tuesday. His body was found in a Mulholland Drive home in the hills above Bel Air, California, Winter said.

"It does appear to be a suicide by hanging," Los Angeles Police spokesman Richard French said.

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Armstrong was the subject of numerous celebrity gossip website stories in recent weeks that detailed allegations of abuse made against him in his pending divorce.

After Taylor Armstrong filed for divorce last month she told People magazine that she was verbally and physically abused during their nearly six-year marriage.

"I felt like I was dying inside," she told People. "Now, there's some sense of peace."

In his interview with People, Russell Armstrong said, "Maybe things happened in the heat of the moment, but it was during a time in our lives that was not characteristic of who we were. This show has literally pushed us to the limit."

Ronald Richards, who was Russell Armstrong's lawyer, said in an interview Tuesday with A.J. Hammer, host of HLN's "Showbiz Tonight," that the response to the divorce filing was sitting on his desk and had been about to be filed in court.

"He did not want the divorce at all, but he was willing to accept her decision," Richards said. "He tried to fix some of her concerns, but as I've advised many couples in this area, including Mr. Armstrong, these shows have a way of tearing apart a marriage when one spouse takes a certain directions and the other spouse is left kind of supporting the financial part of the marriage."

Armstrong, who was defending himself against a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, was financially drained, Richards said. His credit cards had been suspended, adding to the pressure, he said.

But his downfall was caused by his role in the reality show, he said.

"I'm 100% convinced and based on facts that this show led to his depression on a couple different grounds," Richards said. "One is that the show characterized him as someone that abused his spouse. It highlighted ancient financial negatives in his past and put him in a spotlight that he wasn't equipped to deal with."

His lawyer said the allegations of verbal and physical abuse stemmed from "drunk arguments."

"That's what they were dealing with here," he said. "There may have been the normal type of kind of shoving that drunk people sometimes get into."

A combination of factors stemming from the show were "wearing on him," his lawyer said.

"There's the appearance that she's moving forward as a celebrity," Richards said. "He's now a divorce male with kids and he still has a tremendous debt service that he was handling for both of them that was supporting their lifestyle."

The sudden celebrity that followed the Armstrong's appearance on "Real Housewives" was overwhelming to the couple, he said.

"When that sort of stardom attacks a marriage sort of overnight, like in the case of a reality TV star, it's not like an actor that progressively moves up the ladder and the couple deals with this in stages," he said. "A reality show takes an average person that has no stardom and throws them into a public spotlight literally within a couple of episodes, and a lot of couples are not prepared for that and this is a very unfortunate consequence."

Still, Richards said he does not blame the network for his client's depression and death.

"A network cannot be held accountable to people's voluntarily opening of their doors of their private lives. The adults that allowed this to happen to them are responsible," the attorney said. "The network is justified in making good television out of their conflict."

Armstrong's death should serve as a warning to the dangers people face when they sign up for a reality show, he said.

"Adults need to go into these things with your eyes wide open, (realizing) that if you're going to have a network cover your private life, you become a public figure, people can comment about you and there's a high degree of probability that your marriage will end up in shambles as a result of this newfound scrutiny by the public and by the TV network that is covering our private lives," Richards said.

The network that carries the show issued a short statement Tuesday morning:

"All of us at Bravo are deeply saddened by this tragic news. Our sympathy and thoughts are with the Armstrong family at this difficult time."

CNN's Brittany Kaplan and Jack Hannah contributed to this report.

 
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