'Catfish' Star Died of Possible Heroin Overdose, Authorities Say

MTV
Ashley Sawyer of MTV's 'Catfish'.

The reality show star was 23.

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Drug use may have factored into the death of a woman who appeared on MTV's reality show Catfish, police in Alabama said Tuesday.

Authorities were called to an apartment in suburban Birmingham early Saturday morning about a woman in medical distress, Hoover Police Lt. Charles McDonald said.

The woman was identified as 23-year-old Ashley Sawyer. She was featured on the MTV show about online dating scams in 2013 and was shown meeting a longtime digital companion, Michael Fortunato, in person.

The pair used altered images of themselves after communicating in an online chatroom.

Fortunato died of a pulmonary embolism a month after the episode aired, according to MTV News.

In a recent follow-up episode, MTV says Sawyer revealed that she had struggled with addiction.

Sawyer's official cause of death is unclear.

McDonald said witnesses had started CPR on Sawyer and responding officers also tried using defibrillators and medication on her.

"We are investigating, but early indicators are this was possibly related to a drug overdose, possibly heroin," McDonald said, adding that officials won't be sure of Sawyer's cause of death until a blood toxicology test is done.

McDonald said he's unsure of how many people were at the apartment with Sawyer and could not comment on whether any charges might be filed.

Catfish co-host Max Joseph has tweeted his condolences, calling Sawyer "sweet and kind." Co-host Nev Schulman also took to Twitter to express his condolences.

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