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updated: 9/27/2012 9:35 PM

'Sons of Anarchy' actor dies, suspected of killing woman

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  • Actor Johnny Lewis poses for a portrait during the 36th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto.

      Actor Johnny Lewis poses for a portrait during the 36th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto.
    Associated Press/Sept. 14, 2011

 
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- An actor whose character died a violent death on the TV drama "Sons of Anarchy" plunged to his death in a driveway after apparently killing his landlady and attacking neighbors near Hollywood, police said Thursday.

Johnny Lewis, who played Kip "Half-Sack" Epps in the FX show, is the only suspect in the death of 81-year-old Catherine Davis, according to Los Angeles police.

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Authorities found them dead Wednesday morning after neighbors reported a woman screaming inside the home, Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. The home was ransacked, glass was shattered and a dead cat was found.

Neighbors said a man had jumped a fence and assaulted a painter and homeowner next door.

The body of Lewis, 28, was found in the driveway. He could have jumped or fallen from the roof, garage or balcony, or tumbled down stairs from a patio area, Smith said.

It appears Davis had been beaten, Smith added.

Because of the circumstances, investigators were checking whether Lewis was on drugs or had mental health issues, Smith said.

Lewis' attorney Jonathan Mandel said the actor did have serious mental issues that seemed to surface fairly recently. He said Lewis' parents and others had tried desperately to help him.

"Johnny Lewis had a lot of problems, a lot of mental problems," Mandel said by phone Thursday. "I recommended treatment for him but he declined it."

He continued, saying: "I give a lot of credit to his parents. They were really strong in trying to help him out. They really went to bat for him, but I guess they just couldn't do enough."

Lewis was released from Los Angeles County Jail a week ago, according to court records.

He had pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon and attempted burglary in separate cases this year and was enrolled in a drug, alcohol and psychiatric treatment program over the summer, according to the records.

In the assault case, two men reported that Lewis hit them in the head with a bottle in January, according to a probation report. The injuries were described as minor, but a probation officer wrote, "Obviously defendant's behavior is out of control and needs counseling afforded by a professional."

The report states that Lewis had been earning about $20,000 a year as an actor in recent years, but that probation officials had not interviewed him. He was living with his parents in their San Fernando Valley at the time of his arrest.

When he was sentenced in September, Lewis was on informal probation on another battery and resisting arrest case filed in February.

As a condition of his probation in both cases, he was ordered to stay away from narcotics.

Lewis' career spanned more than a decade, mainly in small roles. He played Ricky in the 2007 movie "AVPR: Aliens vs Predator -- Requiem" and was Dennis "Chili" Childress for two seasons on TV's "The O.C." He also appeared in episodes of such popular television shows as "Boston Public," "Judging Amy," "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Drake & Josh."

He was on "Sons of Anarchy" in 2008 and 2009 before his character was killed off.

Kurt Sutter, the show's creator and executive producer, tweeted news of Lewis' death Thursday:

"It was a tragic end for an extremely talented guy, who unfortunately had lost his way," Sutter wrote. "I wish I could say that I was shocked by the events last night, but I was not. I am deeply sorry that an innocent life had to be thrown into his destructive path."

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