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No evidence of murder in Duke case

Eighteen months after Doris Duke's deathbed nurse alleged that the tobacco heiress was murdered with overdoses of drugs, the criminal investigation into Duke's death has finally ended _ finding "no credible evidence" she was murdered.

The highly publicized allegations by nurse Tammy Payette _ that Duke's former butler and doctor conspired to kill her with morphine and Demerol _ threw into turmoil the heiress' $1.2-billion estate and clouded the reputations of the butler, Bernard Lafferty, and one of Beverly Hills' most prominent physicians, Dr. Charles Kivowitz.

But in letters to attorneys in the case, released Wednesday, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said, "The results of the completed investigation disclosed no credible evidence of criminal homicide."

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office would not discuss the basis of the finding, or why it took so long to complete the investigation, conducted by the district attorney's Major Crimes Division and the Los Angeles Police Department's robbery-homicide unit.

Those targeted by the allegations expressed relief at the "long-awaited" exoneration.

"Those who have attempted to reduce Miss Duke's life to sordid events have not prevailed," said Lafferty. "It is time to honor her memory by continuing her good works."