Erin Moran Autopsy: Death Likely Caused By Secret Battle With Stage 4 Cancer

Preliminary autopsy results in the case of the tragic death of Erin Moran reveal that the actress likely died from complications related to stage 4 cancer. While it has been widely speculated since her death on Saturday that drugs may have contributed to 56-year-old Moran's untimely death, it appears that a secret struggle with cancer could have actually been the culprit.

According to first responders at the scene, while Erin Moran was known by those closest to her to struggle with drug abuse, no illegal narcotics were discovered at the Indiana home where her body was found. In a statement Monday, Harrison County Sheriff Rod Seelye told Fox News that early autopsy results indicate that stage 4 cancer complications likely contributed to her unexpected death.

"A joint investigation into Mrs. Moran's death was conducted by the s Department and the Harrison County Coroner's Office. A subsequent autopsy revealed that Mrs. Moran likely succumbed to complications of stage 4 cancer."
Prior to Monday's revelation by the Harris County Sheriff's Office, no one close to Erin Moran had mentioned that the actress had been diagnosed with or was being treated for cancer, and as yet the nature of the stage 4 cancer has not been revealed.

Investigators are still awaiting toxicology results from Moran's autopsy; those results may not be completed for several more days.

The world was first alerted to the death of Erin Moran on Saturday evening, hours after EMTs and other first responders found her already deceased in a Harrison County home after responding to an emergency call involving an unresponsive female.

As CNN reports, Moran was a highly successful child star who rose to fame for her Happy Days role as Joanie Cunningham, the younger sister of show lead Richie Cunningham, from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. Famed director Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunningham, sent out his love and support on Twitter following the news of her death.

"Such sad sad news... I'll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up TV screens."

Unfortunately for Erin Moran, her later years were not as bright and successful as her youthful Hollywood successes promised. Prior to her death, the 56-year-old reportedly struggled with instability and drug problems for years. Moran and her husband, Steve Fleischmann, had reportedly moved away from Hollywood and to Indiana back in 2011. There, the pair were said to have lived in a trailer park with his ill mother after Moran lost her California home to foreclosure.

Most recently, in 2012, the former Happy Days actress was spotted at a Holiday Inn Express motel in Corydon. According to sources close to Erin Moran, she had been living there.

Reportedly, many of her Hollywood friends, largely a group of former child stars themselves, tried to get help for Moran, but it was always in vain and to no avail. Some of those closest to Erin Moran believe that her distance from loved-ones and resources may have contributed to her decline and eventual death.

"She was so far away in Indiana. The help she ran from was right here, as close as a call. I am proud of our efforts over the years to help Erin Moran whose troubles were many and complex. Don't doubt for a moment that we tried…sincerely tried through time and treasure…to give comfort to one of our own."
According to Paul Petersen of A Minor Consideration (a group which advocates and provides resources for child actors), six or more ex-child stars had tried to reach out to Moran in her last week alone.

Moran, along with former co-workers Marion Ross, Anson Williams, and Donnie Most, sued the parent company behind Happy Days in order to be reimbursed for merchandising profits they claimed to be owed. That suit would go on to settle.

As for Erin Moran, she publicly admitted in the past to struggles and "issues" following her heyday as a child actress. Even so, she wasn't bitter toward those who had shared her life and lifestyle.

"What happened with all of us was like we were this family. It was so surreal with all the cast members.... They were my family, get it."
In recent years, Moran's acting career was all but non-existent. Her last role, according to her IMDb page, was in 2010's Not Another B Movie. Prior to that, she's only had five listed acting credits since 1998.

"It was indicative when they did the autopsy that she was receiving medical care."

At this point, it is unknown if or when more details related to Erin Moran's autopsy, cancer, or cause of death may be made publicly available. It's unclear who might have known that Moran was suffering from cancer, or what treatment she might have been undergoing at the time of her death. An unnamed law enforcement source reportedly told People Magazine that Erin Moran was so ill that she had been utilizing a feeding tube during her last days, although that has not been confirmed.

[Featured Image by Matt Sayles/AP Images]