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Anne Heche is dead at 53 after life support is removed

The “Donnie Brasco” and “Volcano” actor suffered a traumatic brain injury when she drove her car into a Los Angeles home on Aug. 5. She was pronounced brain-dead Friday.
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LOS ANGELES — Actor Anne Heche was removed from life support Sunday, her spokesperson said, bringing her tumultuous life to an end. She was 53.

She had been declared brain-dead Friday, nine days after she crashed her car into a home in Los Angeles.

Heche, an organ donor, had remained on life support until recipients could be identified. It was not immediately known how many people would benefit.

Heche’s family had acknowledged Thursday that she was not expected to survive her injuries from the crash on Aug. 5. 

Heche was in a coma and listed in “extreme” condition after the crash, her representative had said. The “anoxic” brain injury she suffered occurs when the brain is cut off from oxygen, causing cell death.

“We have lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend,” Heche’s family said in a statement Friday as she was still on life support.

“Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact.” 

Heche's car hit a home in the Mar Vista community of Los Angeles, sparking a “heavy fire” that damaged the house, said Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Los Angeles police said Thursday that a blood draw showed Heche that had drugs in her system and that the case was being investigated as a “felony DUI traffic collision.” On Friday night, after the declaration that she was brain dead, which made her legally deceased in California, police said there would be “no further investigative efforts made in this case.”

Heche landed her first notable role on the soap opera “Another World” fresh out of high school, which she attended in New Jersey and Chicago. She portrayed Vicky Hudson and Marley Love into the early 1990s.

Later that decade, she made her mark in Hollywood with roles in “Donnie Brasco,” “Volcano” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”

Her television credits included “Chicago P.D.” and “Men in Trees.”

Heche was also romantically involved in the late 1990s with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres in a relationship that Heche said was groundbreaking for the time because of the global attention they got as celebrities in a same-sex romance.

Their relationship took off after they were introduced in 1997 at a Los Angeles-area restaurant by actor Vince Vaughn, her co-star in “Return to Paradise.” 

“My story is a story that created change in the world, moved the needle for equal rights forward, when I fell in love with Ellen DeGeneres,” she said in a taped segment for the show “Dancing With the Stars.”

However, she also said the relationship cost her dearly, saying she struggled to get hired for a role by a major studio for nearly a decade.

After their three-year relationship ended in 2000, Heche was hospitalized after she was found wandering in a rural area of Fresno County, California, appearing disoriented and confused, authorities said.

She described her struggles with mental health in her 2001 memoir, “Call Me Crazy.”

“I wanted to beat everybody else to the punch,” she said about the book in an interview that year with Larry King. “I certainly know what’s been written about me in the press. I, although I was never diagnosed as being crazy, I went crazy.”

Heche would go on to marry Coley Laffoon, and the couple had a son, Homer Laffoon, before they divorced. She had another son in 2009 with actor James Tupper, her co-star in “Men in Trees”; they separated.

“Hopefully my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom,” Homer Laffoon said in a statement Heche’s spokesperson provided Friday.

Her family’s announcement she would not survive her injuries described Heche as having “touched everyone she met with her generous spirit.”

“More than her extraordinary talent, she saw spreading kindness and joy as her life’s work ⁠— especially moving the needle for acceptance of who you love,” the statement said. “She will be remembered for her courageous honesty and dearly missed for her light.”

Diana Dasrath reported from Los Angeles, Tim Stelloh from the Bay Area, Dennis Romero from San Diego, and Chantal Da Silva from London.