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Scott Baio says he’s “heartbroken” over Erin Moran’s death, and his suggestion that his former Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi co-star might have died of drugs or alcohol was a response to media reports.
Authorities in Indiana said Monday that Moran likely died from cancer at her home on Saturday at the age of 56.
Earlier in the day, Baio told New York’s WABC radio that he was “shocked, but not completely shocked” about Moran’s death, before saying, “If you do drugs or drink, you’re going to die.”
“She was just an insecure human being and fell into this world of drugs and alcohol,” he said. He added that he didn’t know if drugs or alcohol were the cause of her death.
Baio’s comments drew a backlash on social media, prompting him to clarify in a Facebook post that he had heard reports that Moran died of a heroin overdose and the radio interview took place before authorities mentioned her cancer.
He called Moran his “very first real girlfriend” and defended himself as a “compassionate person.”
The actor also shared an open letter from Moran’s husband, Steve Fleischmann, detailing his wife’s cancer diagnosis and tragic final moments.
“She woke up on the 22nd, she was not 100%,” writes Fleischmann. “She needed Kleenex, so i went to the store and came back. She was there watching T.V in bed. I laid down next to her held her right hand in my left. I feel asleep woke up about a hour later still holding her hand and she was gone, she was just gone.”
Fleischmann said the Norton Cancer Institute never told them how grave her health situation was.
“The coroner told me it was really really bad. It had spread to her spleen, she had a lot of fluid in her lungs and part of her brain was infected,” he said. “The coroner said even if she was in the hospital being pumped full of antibiotics she still would not of made it. He said it was the best that she was with me and went in her sleep.”
Baio joined the Happy Days cast in 1977 as Chachi Arcola. He starred alongside Moran’s Joanie Cunningham in the Joanie Loves Chachi spinoff before it was canceled in 1983 after two abbreviated seasons.
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