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Actor Heath Ledger Dead at 28

Posted: January 22, 2008
Actor Heath Ledger Dead at 28

Oscar-nominated actor Heath Ledger was found naked and dead in his SoHo apartment yesterday after he apparently overdosed on anti-anxiety pills.

The 28-year-old star's ex-fiancée, actress Michelle Williams, was flying to New York from Sweden with their 2-year-old daughter Matilda, her father said. Larry Williams told the Daily Telegraph in Australia. "My heart goes out to everyone, his family, my family, we are just very saddened. The saddest thing is his daughter who he just loved dearly."

While some sources said Ledger was depressed, the actor's father, Kim, later released a statement declaring his son's death "accidental."

One cop at the scene said it did not appear to be suicide, but police were still investigating, and an autopsy is scheduled for today.

Ledger was found by his maid and the masseuse with whom he had a scheduled 3 p.m. appointment at his $23,000-a-month, three-bedroom loft at 421 Broome St. When the two women entered his bedroom at about 3:20 p.m., Ledger was nude, lying face down and unresponsive, police sources said.

Pills were strewn around the bed, and there was a bottle next by the actor's body, police sources said. The maid and therapist called 911 at about 3:26 p.m. Emergency workers were unable to revive the star, and he was pronounced dead at 3:35 p.m.

Bottles of the generic forms of Xanax and Valium, both anti-anxiety drugs prescribed in his name, were found in the house, according to law-enforcement sources. The sleeping drug Ambien was also found near his body, sources said. The maid said she last heard the star snoring around noon.

"We are investigating the possibility of an overdose," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.

"There were pills within the vicinity of the bed."

One police source said "it does not appear to be a suicide." Ledger, a native of Perth, Australia, had lived in Brooklyn with Williams and Matilda, but the couple split last year. He has since been romantically linked to a slew of women, from Aussie supermodel Gemma Ward to Long Island bad girl Lindsay Lohan.

An "insider" told Britain's Daily Mail that Ledger had been having substance-abuse problems since breaking up with Williams in September.

"Heath was shattered by his split from Michelle. He became a recluse. He barely slept. He was dealing with terrible mood swings," the source told the Mail's Web site. "Heath totally wanted to be on his own these past few months since he and Michelle split in September. She was very much in love with him, but the fact that he continued to dabble in drugs kept their relationship from being one she could rely on," said the source.

"He adored his daughter, Matilda, and when Michelle called it quits, he missed Matilda so much that he was thrown into a deep, dark depression."

Ledger's family is shocked and "devastated," according to Los Angeles-based private investigator Paul Barresi, a close friend of the actor's uncle, Neil Bell.

"The father and mother are devastated because they found out of his death through the media," said Barresi, who talked to the uncle shortly after Ledger's death.

He quoted Bell, whom Heath has credited as inspiration for his "Brokeback Mountain" performance, as saying, "This is so weird. Heath's life was going so well." Many Manhattan neighbors said Ledger was low-key and didn't appear to be depressed.

"We always greeted each other. It's such a shock," said Julie McIntosh, 32, who works in a hair salon on his block and said he was "upbeat and positive."

"He looked happy as can be, always pleasant. He didn't seem like that [suicidal]. He always had a smile on his face," she said.

But up-and-coming actor Jonathan Zarin, an acquaintance of Ledger's, said he'd been told that the star had been feeling down.

"We heard that he was depressed, but we didn't think it was to the point where he would do something so drastic. It was out of the blue. He must have been in a bad place," said Zarin. "He always gave me good advice about acting, he was always the nicest guy."

Michelle Vella, a worker at the Calypso kids store in Manhattan, said the actor loved to spoil Matilda and would frequently pop in, both of them toting ice-cream cones. "He didn't talk to her like a baby . . . He never rushed her," Vella said.

Additional reporting by Perry Chiaramonte, Tim Perone, Jim Fanelli, Braden Keil

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