Reality stars who died under suspicious circumstances

Whether you outright love reality stars and their shows, hate to love them, or love to hate them, one thing is for sure: Reality TV's likely not going anywhere anytime soon. The TV genre is a relatively new form of entertainment that's proven lucrative for TV networks that've gone on to see multiple successful reality franchises, as well as for many of those people who've launched huge careers thanks to reality shows (cough, the Kardashians, cough).

Reality TV is enticing for people looking for those 15 minutes of fame. Open casting calls make auditioning easy, and, in the case of competition shows, there's often a lot of money up for grabs for those who make the final cut. However, some reality show stars have fallen prey to what fans may call a reality TV curse, which has been blamed for breakups, divorces, and, in worst cases, death.

While some reality stars succumb to illnesses, others have died under more suspicious circumstances.

Sophie Gradon

In June 2018, Sophie Gradon, who appeared on the British reality show Love Island, was found dead in her home. At only 32, Gradon's death came as a surprise to many fans of the show, as well as to her family and friends. According to The Sun, police did not release the cause of her death. They specifically ruled "suspicious circumstances" out, leaving most to believe the star took her own life. In fact, Gradon had addressed her mental health issues before, in large part blaming internet trolls for causing her anxiety. "It can really, really get into your mind," Gradon said in an interview with Radio Aire shortly before her death.

Tragically, a few weeks after her death, Gradon's boyfriend Aaron Armstrong died by suicide. People reported that 25-year-old Armstrong "had been found deceased" and that it was thought that there was no "third party involvement." His death came just days after he posted a tribute to Gradon on Instagram, writing, "I miss you so so much you will shine so bright up there my angel rest in peace beautiful see u on the other side."

Ryan Knight

Ryan Knight got his start on MTV's The Real World: New Orleans, and he went on to continue as a fan favorite in the network's The Challenge franchise. While some MTV reality stars have returned season after season, Knight never got that chance. Unfortunately, in November 2014, TMZ reported that the 29-year-old MTV star was found dead.

Sources told TMZ that Knight had spent the night partying, which was not unlike him. Those who knew him knew he lived life "in the fast lane," as his The Challenge castmate Zach Nichols put it, and Knight was rumored to have struggled with drug use (particularly painkillers) in the past. Ultimately, drug use was what led to his death. According to TMZ, Knight's death was officially ruled an accidental overdose. Coroners found multiple drugs in his system, including "methadone (a heroin substitute), tramadol (a painkiller), cocaine and Xanax — mixed with a high level of alcohol."

Anthony Bourdain

While Anthony Bourdain's food and travel show Parts Unknown is not your typical reality TV programming (it's a little more educational and way less raunchy), it was largely unscripted, which lands his tragic death on this list. In June 2018, CNN reported that the chef, author, and TV host had died by suicide. According to CNN, Bourdain was in France at his time of death, filming an episode of Parts Unknown. His friend and fellow chef Eric Ripert reportedly found Bourdain, who was 61 years old, "unresponsive in his hotel room." According to TMZ, the star, who'd previously opened up about his struggles with depression, had hanged himself.

But it'd seem that no one realized just how depressed Bourdain was, as even his girlfriend Asia Argento tweeted that she was unaware of his "obsession" with his own death. Bourdain is survived by his daughter, to whom Bourdain left the majority of his $1.21 million fortune to, according to Page Six.

Anna Nicole Smith

Anna Nicole Smith gained fame after earning Playboy's Playmate of the Year title in 1993. She went on to act and model, eventually starring in her own eponymous reality show in the early 2000s. However, her life was not all glamour. In 2006, three days after giving birth to her daughter, Smith found her 20-year-old son dead of a suspected accidental overdose. Just a few months later, Smith herself fell victim to the same cause of death.

Even in death, Smith was surrounded by controversy. In February 2015, a National Enquirer tabloid story alleged that Smith was "coerced" into taking the mixture of drugs that ultimately killed her, going so far as to quote people who urged that Smith's body be exhumed (via Radar Online). Then, in August of that year, a man who claimed to have had a relationship with Smith told Radar that he believed Smith and her son were murdered by the same person.

Joel Taylor

Joel Taylor found reality TV fame on Discovery Channel's series Storm Chasers. Despite the scary, dangerous weather Taylor encountered in his time on the show, his death at the age of 28 surprisingly didn't happen while chasing a storm. Instead, he passed while on a cruise ship sailing calm seas. In January 2018, TMZ reported that Taylor had been found unresponsive in his cabin aboard the ship.

According to TMZ, Taylor's suspected cause of death was a drug overdose. Passengers told the site that drugs aboard the ship were "plentiful," and Taylor seemed to partake in the action. A passenger told TMZ that Joel had had so much GHB while on the dance floor that he "was rendered unconscious" and needed to be taken back to his room. A couple weeks after his death, The Blast reported that authorities released Taylor's body after his autopsy was completed. In June 2018, a toxicology report revealed that Taylor's cause of death was determined to be MDMA poisoning (via TMZ). 

Dan Kay

Suvivor star Dan Kay passed away in 2016, but the details surrounding his death remain unclear. According to his obituary, Kay died "unexpectedly," and, though he lived in New Hampshire, where his funeral was later held, a New Hampshire forensic investigator told Heavy, "His death was not reported to us. I don't think he died in NH." Furthermore, Kay's girlfriend at the time told Radar Online that she was not willing to reveal his cause of death.

To this day, the reason for Kay's passing has not been shared with the public. However, that hasn't stopped fans from speculating about what happened to the former Survivor contestant, with many people focusing on the terminology present in his obituary. According to the Santa Monica Observer, ideas about Kay's mysterious death vary widely. Many fans believe his death was either a suicide or an accident, while others think that a sudden illness, such as a heart attack or stroke, took his life.

Christina Grimmie

In 2016, TMZ reported that former The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie had been shot and killed after a performance in Orlando, Fla. According to TMZ, a man allegedly walked up to the 22-year-old singer during a meet-and-greet and began shooting before finally being tackled by Grimmie's brother. The shooter later turned the gun on himself.

Police said the man, later identified as Kevin Loibl, had been obsessed with Grimmie. In the months before killing her and himself, Loibl went to great lengths to make himself "more attractive so Grimmie would like him," his friend Corey Dennington reportedly told police. According to the authorities, Loibl had become preoccupied with the idea that Grimmie was his "soul mate," and he "spent most of his waking hours watching Christina on YouTube as well as constantly monitoring her social media accounts."

Dennington reportedly said that Loibl had made it clear that Grimmie rejecting him "was out of the question."

Shain Gandee

In 2013, MTV lost another one of their reality TV personalities with the death of Buckwild star Shain Gandee. Though Buckwild only aired for a month (producers decided to cancel the show after Gandee's death), it was widely popular — and had even been dubbed the "redneck" Jersey Shore

Fans were shocked to learn about 21-year-old Gandee's passing when it was first reported. "Shain had a magnetic personality, with a passion for life that touched everyone he met and we will miss him dearly," MTV said in a statement following Gandee's death.

According to CNN, officials began looking for Gandee and two others after they were reported missing. Police found the three men in a truck in the woods. The sheriff's office in the county where Gandee's body was found reported that officials discovered the truck "partially submerged in mud" with its muffler "below the surface." Upon the release of Gandee's autopsy report, Gandee's death was ruled as an accidental carbon monoxide poisoning as the likely result of his truck's muffler being blocked off by the mud.

Rodney King

Rodney King is perhaps best known for being the man whose brutal beating by police sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots, after the officers involved were acquitted. Fewer people know him for appearing on a season of VH1's Celebrity Rehab, where he shared his struggles with alcoholism. In 2012, King was found dead in a swimming pool, the victim of an apparent drowning.

At the time of his passing, police said there were "no preliminary signs of foul play," and his death was subsequently ruled accidental. However, his autopsy revealed that King's struggles with drugs and alcohol likely played a role in his death. According to CNN, King had alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and PCP in his system when he died. King was "in a state of drug and alcohol-induced delirium" and "either fell or jumped into the swimming pool," the autopsy report stated. "The effects of the drugs and alcohol, combined with the subject's heart condition, probably precipitated a cardiac arrhythmia and the subject, thus incapacitated, was unable to save himself and drowned."

Corey Haim

Corey Haim was both a former child star and reality star, having appeared in his own show alongside Corey Feldman called The Two Coreys. Unfortunately, like many former child stars, Haim lived a tragic life riddled with drugs and addiction. As a result, upon discovery of his death in 2010, many news outlets preemptively reported that his death was the result of an accidental overdose.

According to ABC News, Haim was rushed to the hospital after exhibiting strange "flu-like symptoms." "He could have succumbed to whatever [illness] he had or it could have been drugs," police reported. "He has had a drug problem in the past." Police also noted that Haim's apartment had multiple pill bottles in it, some of which his mom had flushed, which added to the notion that the star had overdosed.

Despite most people believing drugs had killed Haim, the star's autopsy report surprisingly revealed otherwise. E! News reported that Haim actually died of natural causes, most likely the result of a bout of pneumonia.

Loredana Nesci

Loredana Nesci was a lawyer-turned-reality star who earned fame with her show Loredana, Esq. Tragically, Nesci was found fatally stabbed in 2015 after her boyfriend and former model Robert Reagan called police to report the crime. Reagan, who was eventually charged with her murder, initially claimed the stabbing was an accident, saying she stabbed herself during an argument they were having. However, the true details behind the crime were far more sinister.

According to the Daily Breeze, during Reagan's trial, Deputy District Attorney Allyson Ostrowski described Nesci's brutal murder, revealing Nesci had a 7-inch abdominal wound that left her insides looking like "swiss cheese." During the trial, the prosecution explained that Reagan spent the time after Nesci's death showering and calling his siblings to pick up the son he and Nesci shared before phoning the police. In 2017, Reagan was convicted of murdering Nesci and was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

Ryan Dunn

Unfortunately, it seems as though MTV has experienced many reality TV star deaths. Ryan Dunn found fame after appearing in MTV's Jackass, known for performing crazy stunts alongside his castmates. In 2011, Dunn was shockingly found dead — along with his passenger, stunt car driver Zachary Hartwell — after allegedly driving a Porsche 911 GT3 up to 140 mph, ultimately crashing the car in the woods where it caught on fire (via CNN).

Fans were understandably surprised by Dunn's accident and subsequent passing, though he did have a history of dangerous driving. It later emerged that Dunn had been driving while intoxicated. CNN reported that his Twitter account showed him drinking just hours before the crash, and the manager of the bar he was at confirmed that Dunn had been there drinking. "He didn't seem to be intoxicated at the time he left," the manager said. 

Dunn's blood alcohol level was reportedly .0196%, which is more than twice the legal limit."