In a heartrending turn of events, Hollywood icon Robert De Niro is grappling with the loss of his grandson, Leandro De Niro Rodriguez, who tragically passed away last July in New York City at the tender age of 19. The young man was the beloved only child of De Niro's eldest daughter, Drena De Niro, 56.
The cause of Leandro's untimely death was confirmed a month later by the New York City chief medical examiner's office. The devastating news revealed that it was the "toxic effects of fentanyl, bromazolam, alprazolam, 7-aminoclonazepam, ketamine, and cocaine" that led to his demise.
This revelation has cast a dark shadow over the De Niro family, bringing to light the harsh realities of substance abuse and its consequences.
De Niro's Haunting Grief
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Robert De Niro, now 80, shared his profound sense of "disbelief" and shock upon hearing the tragic news.
The esteemed actor, known for his roles in classics such as 'The Godfather Part II' and 'Taxi Driver', expressed his grief and the haunting thoughts of what more he could have done for his grandson. "And I just then started thinking about all the things I could have, should have done maybe with him,” he said.
"I don't know if that would've made a difference. And so that's always playing through my mind”. Adding to the tragedy, less than two weeks after Rodriguez's overdose, New York resident Sophia Marks, 21, was arrested in connection with his death.
According to a criminal complaint, Marks was charged with serious offenses related to the distribution of counterfeit drugs laced with fentanyl and alprazolam. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, emphasized the danger posed by such counterfeit drugs, noting that Marks continued to sell them despite knowing their potentially lethal effects.
This incident highlights a growing and alarming trend in the United States. A recent analysis by the Washington Post, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed that fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49.
This statistic underscores a national crisis, bringing to light the urgent need for awareness and action against the scourge of drug abuse and the proliferation of lethal substances like fentanyl.