Actor Johnny Lewis enjoyed a thriving career on television and in the occasional film for over a decade before his life came to a tragic and bizarre end in the fall of 2012 when he was found dead under suspicious circumstances. A capable supporting player in his teens, Lewis worked steadily in youth-oriented programs like "Drake & Josh" (Nickelodeon, 2004-07) and "The O.C." (Fox, 2003-07), before making the leap to features with "Raise Your Voice" (2004) and "One Missed Call" (2008). He graduated to playing hapless aspiring motorcycle club member Kip "Half Sack" Epps on the first two seasons of "Sons of Anarchy" (FX, 2008- ), but departed the show over creative and personal differences. Minor film roles followed, but Lewis's life soon spiraled into drug addiction and felony charges which culminated in his accidental death from a fall after he was allegedly involved in the beating death of an elderly woman in 2012. His death marked a gruesome end to a career filled with unrealized potential.
Born Jonathan Kendrick Lewis on Oct. 29, 1983, Lewis was the second of three children born to Michael and Divona Lewis. He began acting in his late teens, quickly amassing a slew of bit and supporting guest roles before landing his first stint as a series regular opposite Adam Brody in the Canadian-American sitcom "The Sausage Factory," which aired on stateside television as "MTV's Now What?" (2000-01). Recurring stints on "Boston Public" (Fox, 2000-04) and "Drake & Josh" (Nickelodeon, 2004-07) preceded his feature film debut in the Hilary Duff vehicle "Raise Your Voice" (2004). Roles in minor features preceded higher profile recurring turns on "The O.C." which reunited him with Brody, and supporting turns in under-performing horror features like "AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem" (2007) and "One Missed Call" (2008). During this period, Lewis was also frequently seen with aspiring singer Katy Perry prior to her ascent to pop music stardom.
In 2008, Lewis was cast as Kip "Half Sack" Epps, an aspiring member of a rebel motorcycle club on the acclaimed FX series "Sons of Anarchy." So named due to a testicular injury during his service in the Iraq War, Epps dutifully endured relentless hazing by members of the club while attempting to become a full-fledged member. Epps was eventually inducted into the Sons of Anarchy ranks, though his tenure there was short-lived - the character was killed in the season two finale and buried with full honors at the launch of the third season. The decision to dispatch the character was due to Lewis' desire to leave the show over creative conflicts with series creator Kurt Sutter, who commented at the time that the actor was unhappy with the direction of his character. Lewis went on to enjoy supporting turns in "The Runaways" (2010) and the horror film "Lovely Molly" (2012), but struggled to regain his footing following his time on "Anarchy."
In 2012, Lewis' life spiraled out of control with a series of personal travails that ultimately ended in tragedy. He pled no contest to charges of first degree burglary, for which he was sentenced to 291 days in jail plus three years of probation. A second arrest for assault with a deadly weapon led to six weeks in jail and a stint in rehabilitation for drug-related issues. On Sept. 26, 2012, Lewis was found dead outside of a home in Los Feliz from an apparent fall or leap from its roof - reports remained conflicted as to how he died. Police responded to calls from neighbors who heard 81-year-old Katherine Davis screaming for help inside the home. Two individuals who responded to the sounds were assaulted by Lewis with a two-by-four before the actor allegedly climbed onto the roof of Davis' home. Police arrived to find him dead in the driveway. Davis was also found dead inside the home, having suffered blunt force trauma to her head. News reports later revealed that Lewis had been renting a room from Davis at the time of the incident. Sutter was one of the first to comment on his death, stating that while the events were tragic, he was not surprised given Lewis' personal struggles.
By Paul Gaita