Ashley Sawyer of ‘Catfish’ Dies of Suspected Heroin Overdose

By Victoria Kim 05/05/16

The 23-year-old had recently completed a program at a sober-living facility.

Ashley Sawyer of ‘Catfish’ Dies of Suspected Heroin Overdose
Photo Bébéranol/ Wikimedia Commons

Ashley Sawyer, who appeared on season 2 of the MTV docu-series Catfish, passed away on Saturday at the age of 23. According to local police, her death is being investigated as a drug overdose.

Sawyer was featured in a 2013 episode of Catfish, where the show arranged for her to finally meet the person she had been “catfishing,” Michael Fortunato. The two had formed a seven-year relationship online—during which she would send altered images of herself to appear thinner—but never met until they were united on the show. And when Sawyer finally did meet Fortunato, she discovered that he, too, had been misrepresenting himself, sending her photos of someone else to mask his true physical self. But despite this, they stayed on good terms.

Fortunato passed away from pulmonary embolism at the age of 26, one month after the episode aired. “The last thing we said to each other was that we loved each other,” Sawyer said in a follow-up episode, where she revealed that she struggled with addiction and was staying in a sober-living facility. According to her sister, Jessica Ross, she had completed the program and was working and living on her own in Hoover, Alabama, where she was pronounced dead on Saturday.

When Hoover police arrived at the scene, bystanders were performing CPR on the unconscious Sawyer. Police and firefighters tried to revive her by using a defibrillator and administering Narcan, the overdose antidote, but their attempts failed. She was pronounced dead on the scene.

Sawyer's death is being investigated as a drug overdose, according to Hoover Police Department officers. “In all likelihood, her death is due to a drug overdose and is being investigated as such,” Capt. Gregg Rector told Fox 8.

Lt. Chuck McDonald said it’s possible she overdosed on heroin. “An autopsy is being performed and early indications are this may be related to a drug overdose, possibly heroin,” he told McDonald said there were signs of heroin use in her apartment, but did not go into detail.

An autopsy was performed Saturday. The toxicology test results could take up to six weeks. 

Catfish host Nev Schulman reacted to the tragic news on Twitter: “So sad to lose both Mike & Ashley. I hope they are happy & together now where nothing can hurt them.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr