Child star's grim downfall – from Scientology and dating Katy Perry to sick murder

Johnny Lewis made his name as a star in Sons of Anarchy, but his life will forever be defined by the appalling murder of his landlady just before he died himself

Daily Star, UK/December 9, 2023

By Adam Aiken

For a long time, Johnny Lewis was best known for his portrayal of Kip “Half Sack” Epps in Sons of Anarchy.

But his life was one of controversy, and like many other Hollywood stars who crashed and burned, he died young – but not before battering and strangling his elderly landlady to death.

By the time he turned six in 1989, Lewis' mum had begun taking him to auditions which landed him work in TV ads, and then secured appearances on shows like Malcolm in the Middle.

As an adult, his credits included The OC, Bones, Cold Case and Criminal Minds, but it was in Sons of Anarchy where he really made his name.

He lived a relatively private life by Hollywood standards, and the only relationships that have been confirmed were with Katy Perry and then with actress Diane Gaeta, who’s the mum of his daughter Culla May.

He quit Sons of Anarchy in 2009 and didn’t do any more TV work after that, taking on only a couple of low-budget film roles.

After that, Johnny’s life seemed to spiral into despair as he turned to self-harm. He clearly had his demons, and a colleague from the set of Sons of Anarchy said that it “wasn’t a secret that Johnny had issues he was dealing with”.

Johnny also received a head injury in a high-speed motorbike accident, which was blamed by some for his sudden wayward behaviour.

With senior Scientologists for parents, critics have claimed Johnny didn’t get treatment because of the church’s resistance to psychiatry. But his dad, Michael, rejects that claim, and says he booked his son in for two MRI scans. It was Johnny who refused to have them.

Ultimately, though, it’s the dreadful events of September 26, 2012, that have come to shape the tragic actor’s legacy. The 28-year-old had just moved into a rented property in the posh Los Feliz Hills in LA after being released from prison, where he’d been sent after committing a bunch of violent assaults.

That morning he introduced himself to his new neighbour, Dan Blackburn, reported Los Angeles Magazine. Within a few minutes of the brief visit, though, Dan saw Johnny pummelling his painter until he was covered in blood.

Dan – who was in his 70s – pulled Johnny off the painter, but Johnny jumped up and smacked Dan in the eye, knocking him over before getting hit back and whacked with a chair. Dan, his wife and the painter eventually got themselves back into the house, and after slamming the front door four times on Johnny’s arm, they finally managed to shut him out.

When the cops arrived a few minutes later, they found a scene of carnage. Johnny was lying in the middle of the drive with his skull cracked in half. Cathy Davis, the 81-year-old owner of the villa where Johnny was staying, was found beaten and strangled to death. He’d punched her several times – and possibly used a hammer – and then strangled her with his bare hands. Investigators reckoned he also stamped on her skull.

When he was done, he also killed her cat and dumped it in the shower. Ironically, he’d quit Sons of Anarchy because of its portrayal of violence. His dad said: “He told us he left because the show was getting into gratuitous violence. He didn’t want to communicate that as an artist.”

It was ruled that he’d either jumped or fallen from the rooftop of the house. Many people assumed that he’d been off his head on something at the time, but post-mortem results showed that there were no drugs or booze in his system. His death was ruled an accident rather than suicide.

There was an outpouring of grief when the news leaked out. Actress Shannon Woodward tweeted: “Johnny Lewis was one of my best friends. He was very, very ill. His actions were a despicable result of that. It was not who he was.”

But it was another tweet that might best sum up people’s feelings about what happened. Screenwriter and director Kurt Sutter, tweeted: “I wish I could say that I was shocked by the events last night, but I was not.”

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