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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke October 20, 2022

Video of anti-vaccine activist was taken years before her death from natural causes

If Your Time is short

  • This video was taken years before Brandy Vaughan died in December 2020. 
  • Officials concluded she died of natural causes.

On Dec. 7, 2020, Brandy Vaughan, an anti-vaccine activist in Santa Barbara, California, died. She was a former pharmaceutical representative and the founder of the anti-vaccine group Learn the Risk.

Police found no signs of foul play, but some of Vaughan’s supporters were suspicious, speculating that she had been killed because of her activism. 

A YouTube post sharing a video in which Vaughan describes what she calls "intimidation tactics" against her describes the footage as "Vaughan documenting the intimidation she endured before her murder." A blog post said she was "killed in her home." And more recently, an Instagram post sharing the video said the footage was taken Dec. 6, 2020, and shows Vaughan documenting "her last day of life." 

"She was found dead in her home the next morning," the post says. 

"In this fight, I have been under a little bit of heat," Vaughan says in the video, "and I wanted to document this just in case." 

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This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

We did a reverse image search of a still image from the video and found that the footage wasn’t recorded the day before Vaughan died. It’s been online since at least 2015, when it was posted on YouTube.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Office also ruled that Vaughan wasn’t killed. She died of natural causes, according to findings from its death investigation that were made public in February 2021.

The investigation included an autopsy, in-depth toxicology screening, interviews and a medical record review, the office said in a statement posted on its website. The cause of death was a bilateral pulmonary thromboembolism, a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs that in most cases is caused by a blood clot, according to the Mayo Clinic.

We rate claims that this video shows Vaughan documenting intimidation against her the day before she was killed False.

Our Sources

Instagram post, Oct. 17, 2022

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s office, Coroner’s Office Releases Findings in Brandy Vaughan Death Investigation, Feb. 18, 2021

KCLU, Autopsy Shows Prominent Anti-Vaccination Activist On South Coast Died From Natural Causes, Feb. 18, 2021

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Public Information Officer tweet, Dec. 14, 2020

Brandy Vaughan obituary, Dec. 31, 2020

Mayo Clinic, Pulmonary embolism, visited Oct. 19, 2022

YouTube, The Overt and Covert Intimidation of Brandy Vaughan, July 31, 2015

YouTube, Brandy Vaughan, Dec. 11, 2020


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Video of anti-vaccine activist was taken years before her death from natural causes

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