Prison reform activist, writer and filmmaker Ryan Leone has passed away at the age of 36.
Best known for his semi-autobiographical addiction novel Wasting Talent, Leone spoke on issues such as substance abuse and the need for prison reform in the US.
As news of his death broke and was confirmed by Ryan Leone’s fiancée Karina Franco, a slew of tributes to the late activist flooded social media.
Ryan Leone’s death confirmed
The sad news broke on Twitter that Leone had died in hospital after suffering a number of health complications.
On 2 July 2022, his fiancée Karina Franco shared the news in a Facebook post: “I honestly don’t know what to say. I’m in a state of shock. But a lot of you need to know. Ryan, passed away last night. I feel like my heart and soul have been ripped out. And I’m sorry for posting this. But this is my way of telling you. I don’t have the strength to call people.”
“Rest in PEACE finally my love. I can’t go on without you. This isn’t real. I tried so hard to save you,” Franco wrote in another Facebook post, accompanied by the song My Sweet Lord by George Harrison.
What happened to Ryan Leone?
On 29 June 2022, Ryan Leone took to Facebook to share he was suffering with numerous health issues from a broken finger to a pneumonia diagnosis.
“I broke my finger. Then, completely unrelated, I went to the hospital twice in a week. First time they told me I had pneumonia. I got a second opinion. No pneumonia. This is respiratory and gastrointestinal issues stemming from being on way too much Methadone 170 mgs!! My stomach becomes so bloated it feels like some rapid ever-expanding Willy Wonka inflated sanction.”
Ryan Leone went on to speak about his upcoming film project with a “rapper everyone knows”. Leone was due to fly overseas on 22 July 2022 to work with the unnamed rapper, which he was hoping he’d be well enough for.
Leone concluded with a heartbreaking statement: “I need to stop being so reckless. I’m a dad now. Amen.”
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Through the lows to new highs
Ryan Leone was born 3 August 1985 in Framingham, Massachusetts, but was raised in Santa Barbara, California, from the age of three. Creative from a young age, Leone was writing short stories as a child, spending his early adulthood working in television. But things weren’t smooth sailing for Leone throughout his adolescence.
Leone became involved with drugs as a teenager but it wasn’t until he became involved with the Mendoza Clan, an infamous drug cartel, that things took a turn for the worse. His involvement in drug dealing for the Mendoza Clan landed Leone with a five-year federal prison sentence. During that time spent behind bars, Ryan Leone wrote his first novel.
A documentary about Ryan Leone’s life entitled Idiot Savant: The Savage Life Of Ryan Leone has yet to be released, but has been in the works since 2017.
Following his release from prison, Ryan Leone channelled his efforts towards sobriety and intended to use his experiences to educate others
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Tributes to Ryan Leone flood the internet
As news of Ryan Leone’s death circulates on social media, many friends and fans have paid tribute to the late activist and writer.
One Twitter user commented in response to the news: “Fly high Ryan Leone you don’t have to suffer any more.”
Another wrote: “Take your time, you have now all the time in the world. Rest in peace wherever you are Ryan Leone.”
Our thoughts are with Ryan Leone’s family and friends at this difficult time.