Update 8/09/23 at 3:03 p.m. ET
Drena De Niro took to social media to slam online trolls who have “spread vitriol and pain” with insensitive comments about her son Leandro De Niro’s death.
She wrote in a lengthy Wednesday, August 9, Instagram post that her son did not knowingly take a “fentanyl-laced substance,” adding, “He was warned to ‘not take too many’ of the counterfeit pills he was being sold and to ‘be careful with these’ but this is very different than warning that a substance is in fact lethal or better yet not selling it at all.”
Drena went on to note that she, her father, Robert De Niro, nor Leandro himself should be blamed for his untimely passing. “As long as we keep blaming the addict and person suffering mental illness we are going to continue to see more of this,” she explained.
Leandro “suffered tremendously through the pandemic” before his addiction “took over in the last year and eventually killed him,” Drena stated. “When you decide to comment on people’s misfortune and loss at least really think about the emotional and mental fragility of the people you’re attacking online. We are all human beings in the end. Neither I, my family, nor m son asked to be public tabloid fodder for trolling that’s just what we have to deal with on top of a paramount loss.”
Drena continued her message by asking fans help raise awareness for addiction and mental health issues rather than focus on “the menu of substances in [Leandro’s] system when he died.”
She concluded: “My heart, prayers and alliance is with anyone who is suffering the loss of their child or loved one to this nightmare of addiction and fentanyl overdose or suicide. Hopefully the publicity his very sad death has garnered will bring attention to a much bigger problem and to all the other beautiful young lives that are being snuffed out way too soon and senselessly.”
Original story continues below:
Robert De Niro’s grandson Leandro De Niro Rodriguez’s official cause of death has been revealed one month after his passing.
New York City’s chief medical examiner told TMZ on Tuesday, August 8, that Leandro had fentanyl, bromazolam, alprazolam, 7-aminoclonazepam, ketamine and cocaine in his system, ruling his death an accidental overdose.
Leandro died at age 19 in July. His mother, Drena De Niro — whom Robert adopted while married to her mother, Diahnne Abbott — penned a heartwarming tribute to the late teenager at the time.
“My beautiful sweet angel. I have loved you beyond words or description from the moment I felt you in my belly,” Drena wrote via Instagram. “I don’t know how to live without you but I’ll try to go on and spread the love and light that you so made me feel in getting to be your mama. You were so deeply loved and appreciated and I wish that love alone could have saved you 😞.”
The filmmaker shared Leandro with artist Carlos Mare, whom she mentioned in her emotional statement. “I’m so sorry my baby, I’m so sorry @carlosmare 😢💔. Rest in Peace and Eternal Paradise my darling boy 🙏🏽💔💔💔💔💔🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️,” she wrote.
Mare, for his part, commented on the post: “😢 My dear Drena … words aren’t enough to express the joy he gave us or the loss we now endure with our families and friends. He is Godschild now. 🙏🏼. On this full moon his spirit luminates what could not be seen in the dark. You can’t spell LOVE without LEO 👼💔💔.”
Prior to the official cause of death being revealed, Drena responded to a social media user who asked how her son died. “Someone sold him fentanyl laced pills that they knew were laced yet still sold them to him so for all these people still f—king around selling and buying this s—t, my son is gone forever 😭,” she claimed in July. Last month, several outlets reported that Sofia Haley Marks had been arrested on federal drug distribution charges for allegedly selling Leandro drugs.
Shortly after the news broke of Leandro’s death, Drena expressed her gratitude for the support she and her family had received in the wake of their loss.
It is with immeasurable shock and sadness that we say goodbye to our beloved son Leo,” she said in a statement to Us Weekly on July 3. “We thank you for the outpouring of love and support and ask that we are given privacy at this time to process this inconsolable grief.”
Robert, for his part, also reacted to the death of his oldest grandson.
“I’m deeply distressed by the passing of my beloved grandson Leo,” the Oscar winner told Us in a statement at the time. “We’re greatly appreciative of the condolences from everyone. We ask that we please be given privacy to grieve our loss of Leo.”
In addition to Drena, the actor shares son Raphael, 46, with Abbott, 78, twins Aaron and Julian, 27, with ex Toukie Smith, son Elliot, 25, and daughter Helen, 11, with estranged wife Grace Hightower, and daughter Gia, 2 months, with girlfriend Tiffany Chen. He is also the grandfather of Raphael’s three children with ex-wife Claudine De Matos: son Nicholas and daughters Alexandria and Ella.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).