Erin Moran died of cancer, according to an Indiana medical examiner’s report, putting to rest speculation that the former Happy Days actress had a drug problem that played a role in her death.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, the Harrison County, Indiana, coroner concluded that Moran died of cancer, and only cancer.
“No illegal narcotics were involved in her death,” concluded the coroner’s report.
That conclusion matches what her husband, Steve Fleischmann, had been saying since Erin died: that she had beaten her previous substance-abuse problems and had died of throat cancer.
Back on April 25, Erin’s former Happy Days co-star Scott Baio posted an open letter on his Facebook page. The letter was written by Fleischmann, who penned a heartbreaking ode to his late wife and her final days.
“…squamous cell carcinoma. She started radiation and chemo. Five days a week radiation and chemo only on Thursdays. We did that the whole time. It got so bad so fast. By the middle of February, Erin could no longer speak or eat or drink.”
However, despite her husband’s insistence that Erin had died of cancer, the media speculated at the time of her death that Moran’s well-documented substance abuse problems had played a role in her death. Her own brother, Tony Moran, added fuel to the fire, telling British newspaper the Sun that substance abuse probably played a role.
“My first thoughts were she must have had a heart attack caused by years of substance abuse. She has always battled demons and in recent years things have gone from bad to worse.”
— Lights and Spectacle (@_LEspectacle) May 15, 2017
Despite the fact that she had put her substance-abuse issues behind her, Erin Moran’s last days were still tragic. Once a wealthy actress who had been the darling of the 1970s TV scene, she died broke in an Indiana trailer park.
— BlackBoyMagic (@blackboy_magic) May 17, 2017
By 2012, Moran had married Steven Fleischmann and was living in California, facing foreclosure on their home. Once evicted from their home, the couple had nowhere else to go, so they went to Indiana to live in a trailer park with Fleischmann’s ailing mother. Moran was to take care of the elderly woman while Steven worked at Walmart.
That, however, didn’t last. Following an altercation with Fleischmann’s mother, the two were kicked out and were even homeless for a while.
Through it all, Moran always had a good attitude, said neighbor David Holt.
“She didn’t have an attitude, or let on that she felt she didn’t belong here. It was just, ‘You’re on top one day, and then you’re on the bottom.’ But I do think she was still hopeful.”
That’s not to say that she wasn’t offered help. Her former Happy Days co-stars had reached out to her — several times, in fact — trying to help her find roles or get her other help. Paul Petersen, who runs the child-actor advocacy group A Minor Consideration, had also offered Moran help, according to the New York Daily News.
“Erin had friends and she knew it. Abandonment was not the issue. The perversity of human frailty is at the root of this loss, not failure. We did our best with the resources available to us, but it was a very dark room. Some don’t find the light switch in time.”
Whether it was from pride, the ravages of mental illness, drug addiction, or simply resignation to her fate, Erin Moran never accepted the help she was offered. Instead, she died just as she had lived the last decades of her life — another child star who failed to make the transition to successful and well-adjusted adult.
[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]