20 Child Celebrities Who Tragically Died too Young

River Phoenix

When a child loses their life for whatever reason, it’s a harsh reality that death discriminatory. It doesn’t care about age, race, skin color, or whatever social status the child happens to be. When that child also happens to be a celebrity, the shocking loss of such young life is no less dramatic. Although nobody can share the same level of grief level as the parents of a lost child does, it doesn’t lessen the blow among family, friends, and fans who realize the young face they’ve come to love will never get to experience life as an adult.

There are at least twenty known young celebrities that were not given the proper chance to fully grow up. Fate clearly had something else in mind for them, which is not our place to question. All people can do when such a loss is felt is that there really is a place for these young souls to call home as it was made clear their little, fragile bodies simply couldn’t stay in a world that sometimes seems too cruel for words.

20. Lucille Ricksen

The silent movie actress known as Lucille Ricksen was in the middle of filming when she fell ill and was rushed to the hospital to determine the cause. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which ultimately ended her life on March 13, 1925. She was only fourteen years old. Prior to her death, Ricksen had made a number of silent films that caused the teenager to experience exhaustion and malnutrition.

While Ricksen was hospitalized for her tuberculosis condition, her mother remained at her bedside until the stress of losing her own daughter to the disease caused a fatal heart attack. The final movie Ricken filmed, The Denial, came out ten days after her death.

19. J. Madison Wright Morris

Best known for her role as Sam Wallace in the 1996 film, Shiloh, J. Madison Wright Morris had experienced repeated bouts of pneumonia, as well as a number of other ailments, before being diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy. She later received a heart transplant in March 2000 to help correct this heart muscle disease.

She was fifteen years old at the time of surgery. However, she suffered a heart attack that ended her life on July 21, 2006, at just twenty-one years old.

18. Norman Chaney

On May 29, 1936, at just twenty-two years old, the actor from the Our Gang series passed away due to complications stemming from a surgical procedure that was supposed to correct a glandular disorder. The wildly popular series ran from 1929 until 1931 where the child actor starred as Chubby.

If it wasn’t tragic enough for a young man to perish while still in his prime, his remains were kept at an unmarked grave in Baltimore, Maryland for seventy-six years until workers at the cemetery felt it was long overdue that the deceased actor has his own tombstone, along with his name on it.

17. Billy Laughlin

Known as Froggy on the 1929 television series, Our Gang, Billy Laughlin was first enrolled in drama class by his mother to help him overcome his self-consciousness. On August 31, 1948, Laughlin was helping his friend, John Wilbrand, deliver newspapers in the Los Angeles area.

The two were riding a motorized scooter on a three-lane highway when Wilbrand did a sudden U-turn into the front of a truck, causing the collision. Laughlin was taken to hospital where he died six hours later from the injuries he received from the accident. His friend, Wilbrand, only had minor injuries. Billy Laughlin was only sixteen years old when he died.

16. Dorothy Dell

Dorothy Dell, since birth, seemed destined for stardom. Out of her hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, she won the most beautiful baby contest at thirteen months old. Starting at the age of ten, she lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. She won Miss New Orleans when she was there at just fifteen years old. In 1930, she was crowned at the Miss Universe pageant.

Winning beauty contests, as well as critical acclaim in her acting while still, just a youth suggested Dell had a promising future ahead of her. However, on June 8, 1934, an automobile accident changed all that. After leaving an all-night party, she was heading for Pasadena when the car veered off the highway and hit a telephone pole, then bounced off a palm tree and hit a boulder. Dell died instantly while her date that evening, Dr. Carl Wagner, who was the driver, died several hours later.

15. Heather O’Rourke

Little Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne Freeling in the 1982 horror film, Poltergeist, was only six years old when she appeared as the girl whose hands were on the distorted screen of the television set. She also appeared in the sequel, Poltergeist II: The Other Side in 1986. From 1982 until 1983, she also appeared in a few episodes on Happy Days.

In 1988, at only twelve years old, she passed away due to complications while the surgeon was attempting to remove an acute bowel obstruction, shortly before the second sequel, Poltergeist III, was released, which marked her final movie appearance.

14. River Phoenix

Although not technically a child at the age of twenty-three when he died, River Phoenix still died at a young enough age where he barely had enough time to experience life as a responsible adult. The older brother of Joaquin Phoenix is best known for his roles in Stand By Me and Explorers and was a teen idol during the 1980s that made the hearts of so many young female fans swoon.

In 1993 Phoenix collapsed just outside of Johnny Depp’s Sunset Strip Club, The Viper Room, and was later pronounced dead. When the news got out, scores of shocked fans took it hard. Throughout Hollywood, the loss of Phoenix, who was in the prime of his acting career, rocked virtually every celebrity to the core.

13. Judith Barsi

Judith Barsi was the voice behind Ducky, one of the lovable baby dinosaurs from the 1988 animated movie, The Land Before Time. She was also in a number of commercials, television shows, and even the 1987 motion picture, Jaws: The Revenge.

The promise of a brilliant Hollywood career was literally at the young girl’s feet. However, she and her mother were murdered in July 1988 by her father, who then committed suicide after taking their lives.

12. Cameron Boyce

Cameron Boyce was the actor and dancer best known as Luke Ross from Disney Channel’s series, Jessie. On July 6, 2019, he passed away at the age of twenty, in his sleep, due to an epileptic seizure. Leading up to the day of his death, Boyce had been contending with this ongoing medical condition he was already receiving treatment for.

Boyce also appeared from 2015 until 2019 as Carlos, Cruella De Vil’s teenaged son in the Disney Channel’s Descendants, Descendants 2, and Descendants 3. He also appeared in Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2, Eagle Eye, and Mirrors. He was also announced to join the 2019 cast of HBO’s Mrs. Fletcher. When he was found in the Los Angeles home he shared with co-stars Karan Brar and Sophie Reynolds, the authorities that were called in found Boyce unresponsive and pronounced him dead on the scene.

11. Bridgette Anderson

At twenty-one years of age, the star of 1982’s Savannah Smiles, Bridgette Anderson, became one of the too many child actors who fell into the world of drug addiction. Unable to control a habit that already was destroying the young lady’s life, Anderson suffered a fatal accidental drug overdose in 1997 when she mixed alcohol with heroin.

10. Josh Ryan Evans

From 1999 until 2008, Passions was a daytime soap opera series that featured Josh Ryan Evans as Timmy Lenox in a total of three hundred episodes. In a strange twist of fate, the very day his character died during the filming for the May 26, 2003, episode of the show, the actor himself died. He succumbed to a congenital heart condition at just twenty years old.

He was one of the tiniest actors in Hollywood, only standing as tall as thirty-seven inches. This, however, didn’t prevent him from making a respected name for himself as he starred in 1999’s Baby Genius, and was the annoying child lawyer on the series, Allie McBeal in 1997.

9. Rob Knox

On May 24, 2008, actor Rob Knox was slain while defending his sixteen-year-old brother during a bar fight in London, England. The attacker stabbed the eighteen-year-old Knox to death, who was later convicted for the murder on March 4, 2009.

Knox played the role of Marcus Belby, one of the characters featured in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which was released n 2009. At the Hollywood premiere, the entire cast and crew each wore white wristbands as a tribute to the young actor. Many of them were also at his funeral, including the Harry Potter star himself, Daniel Radcliffe.

8. Nikita Pearl Waligwa

Nikita Pearl Waligwa, the young child actress of Ugandan origin was best known for her 2016 role as Gloria in Disney’s Queen of Katwe. On February 15th, 2020, at just fifteen years old, she passed away from a brain tumor. Fellow co-star and schoolmate, Lupita Nyong’o, posted tributes to Waligwa on her social media account.

7. Mathew Garber

Mathew Garber was discovered in 1963 at just seven years old was brought to the attention of Disney Studios that first saw him appear in a few films before casting him as Michael banks in the 1964 Disney classic, Mary Poppins. After his brief career as a child actor in Hollywood, Garber returned to school studies full-time. In 1976, Garber went to India where he contracted hepatitis after consuming what he called bad meat.

In 1977, he rushed to his native London, England in hopes to receive medical treatment. However, it was too late for him as the disease made it into his pancreas. At just twenty-one years old, he passed away due to hemorrhagic necrotizing in the pancreas.

6. Tara Correa-McMullen

From 1999 until 2005, Judging Amy was a popular television drama that featured Tara Correa-McMullen appearing during its final season between 2004 and 2005. She was in seven of the show’s episodes. In a similar manner as the character she played in the series, McMullen was fatally wounded in a shooting in Inglewood, California on October 21, 2005, when a pair of gang members fired randomly at a crowd. She was just sixteen years old when she died.

In 2009, Damien Watts and Joseph Wayne Jones were both convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole.

5. Anissa Jones

From 1966 until 1971, the television series, Family Affair featured Anissa Jones playing the role of Buffy the smallest member of the Patterson-Davis Family on the show. On August 28, 1976, at just eighteen years old, the young actress suffered a fatal overdose due to the combination of angel dust, cocaine, Quaaludes, and Seconal. According to the San Diego Country coroner, it was one of the most severe cases of drug overdoses the county had ever seen.

4. Skye McCole Bartusiak

The little girl named Susan that was on Mel Gibson’s The Patriot was played by actress Skye McCole Bartusiak. The movie came out in 2000 and the young actress was only seven years old when she performed her role as the youngest of the main character’s daughters.

On July 19, 2014, Bartusiak was found dead in her apartment where there was tremendous effort to resuscitate her, but to no avail. Although it was an accidental prescription overdose that ended Bartusiak’s life, she did not engage in substance abuse as many childhood actors have been known to do. In Bartusiak’s case, she had been suffering from epileptic seizures that required medication to treat it. The death had not been ruled as a suicide.

3. Michael Cuccione

In the 2000-2001 spoof hit series, 2gether, Michael Cuccione starred as Jason Q.T. McKnight before he died at the age of sixteen from a car accident on January 13, 2001.

Prior to this tragedy, at the age of nine years old, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease and had undergone chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant that resulted in having to contend with respiratory issues. This served as a contributing factor as to why Cucciopne was unable to fully recover from his injuries and died due to respiratory failure.

2. Sammi Kane Kraft

Sammi Kane Kraft starred as Amanda Whurlitzer for the 2005 remake of the Bad News Bears. She was twelve years old at the time of filming. On October 9, 2012, Kraft was the passenger of a vehicle that rear-ended a semi-truck, then struck from behind by another vehicle.

While her friend, Molly Adams, who was the driver, survived with minor injuries and was charged with a DUI, Whurlitzer wasn’t so lucky. She succumbed to her injuries while at the hospital, dying at the age of just twenty years old.

1. Sawyer Sweeten

On the television hit series, Everybody Loves Raymond, Sawyer Sweeten starred as Ray Romano’s son, Geoffrey Barone, from 1996 until 2005. He is the twin brother to Sullivan Sweeten, and the younger brother to Madylin Sweeten, both of whom were on the series with him.

On April 23, 2015, while visiting his family in the state of Texas, Sawyer Sweeten took his own life at just nineteen years old when he went out on the porch and shot himself.

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