What Was ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Actor Johnny Lewis’ Cause of Death?

Johnny Lewis was once a rising talent. He landed starring roles on hit TV shows like Sons of Anarchy and The O.C. and appeared in indie films such as Palo Alto and The Runaways. The actor also famously dated singing superstar Katy Perry. So, as with many celebrity deaths, his untimely demise at the age of 28 shocked fans. But Johnny Lewis’ cause of death was only one chapter in a sad and disturbing story.

Why did ‘Sons of Anarchy’ kill off his character?

Johnny Lewis cause of death, Sons of Anarchy
Johnny Lewis on September 13, 2011 | Charles Leonio/Getty Images

Johnny Lewis began acting when he was only 6 years old, snagging parts in commercials. After graduating from high school, he guest-starred in series like 7th Heaven, Malcolm in the Middle, Drake & Josh, and Smallville. He also scored a few movie roles in films like Alien vs. Predator: Requiem and One Missed Call

However, Lewis’ big break came with a starring role in the hit FX drama Sons of Anarchy. He played Kip “Half-Sack” Epps, a prospective member of the titular biker gang. The actor earned praise for his performance, so viewers were surprised when the show killed off his character at the end of season 2. 

According to Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, the decision to kill Half-Sack resulted from creative differences that made Lewis want to leave the show. 

“I will tell you that I’ve been having conversations with Johnny Lewis all season, and Johnny wasn’t happy on the show,” Sutter said in an interview with Alan Sepinwal. “Creatively, he really wanted out of his contract. We had ongoing conversations, and we decided we’d find some noble way for him to go. It wasn’t my intent to try to be sensational and kill off a main character.”

He continued, “People are going to have their reaction, but I don’t want an actor that’s not happy. It’s not good for the actor, and it’s not good for the show. I love Johnny. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat.”

Sadly, that was not to be.

What was Johnny Lewis’ cause of death?

Three years after leaving Sons of Anarchy, Johnny Lewis was living at the Writers’ Villa, a bed-and-breakfast for aspiring writers, directors, and performers. Cathy Davis ran the Writers’ Villa and also lived on the premises. On September 26, 2012, Lewis and the 81-year-old were found dead at the B&B. Witnesses had called police after the actor attacked the next-door neighbors, and Davis was heard screaming. 

Davis was found with severe head injuries inside the B&B. Authorities later determined Lewis had killed her, but they gave no motive. Her cause of death was manual strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head. Police found Lewis dead in the home’s driveway. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, he fell or jumped from the top of the garage or roof of the house. 

An autopsy conducted on Lewis’ body found no controlled substances in his system. The actor had misused drugs in the past, but tests came back negative for alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, psychedelic drugs, and antipsychotic medication. The medical examiner ruled Johnny Lewis’ cause of death accidental as a result of the fall. 

The reason for Lewis’ violent behavior has never been uncovered, but his family blames head trauma he sustained in a motorcycle accident the previous year.

Did a motorcycle crash prompt Johnny Lewis to kill?

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In late October 2011, a year before murdering Cathy Davis, Johnny Lewis sustained head injuries in a high-speed motorcycle crash. Although his father had scheduled two MRI scans for his son, Lewis refused to get them. From that moment, the actor’s friends and family said he was never the same. 

In the months following the accident, Lewis began behaving erratically and violently. In January 2012, he broke into an empty house after claiming he’d heard cries of distress. When two of the home’s residents arrived and asked him to leave, Lewis began fighting the men, and police responded to the scene. 

Lewis ended up in jail, where his behavior landed him in the psychiatric ward. After his discharge, the actor’s erratic behavior continued, with Lewis getting into fights, attempting suicide, and breaking into homes. He spent more time behind bars and in mental health facilities. 

A few days after being released from jail for what would be the last time, the actor was dead.

No matter Johnny Lewis’ cause of death, it was a tragic and violent end for a star who once showed so much promise.