What happened to Ryan Leone? Tributes pour in as novelist dies aged 36

Writer, artist, film producer and prison reform activist Ryan Leone passes away (Image via Soft White Underbelly/YouTube)
Writer, artist, film producer and prison reform activist Ryan Leone passes away (Image via Soft White Underbelly/YouTube)

On Saturday, July 2, writer Ryan Leone passed away at the age of 36. Although Ryan Leone was a controversial figure due to his involvement with drugs in the past, many flooded social media with tributes for him.

The news of his death was confirmed by his fiancée Karina Franco on Saturday via Facebook. In the post, she said that she was “state of shock.”

A part of the heartbreaking announcement read:

“I honestly don’t know what to say. I’m in a state of shock. But a lot of you need to know. Ryan, passed away last night. I Feel like my heart and soul have been ripped out. And I’m sorry for posting this. But this is my way of telling you. I don’t have the strength to call people.”

Franco also wrote another post with George Harrison's song My Sweet Lord. In that post, she added that she can't "go on without" Leone and said that she tried her best to save him.

What happened to Ryan Leone?

Ryan Leone was a celebrated writer, artist and filmmaker (Image via Soft White Underbelly/YouTube)
Ryan Leone was a celebrated writer, artist and filmmaker (Image via Soft White Underbelly/YouTube)

On June 29, Ryan Leone took to Facebook, sharing that he had recently had numerous visits to the hospital.

In his post, the 36-year-old revealed that he was initially diagnosed with pneumonia. However, this was an incorrect diagnosis, and the doctors found that the writer was suffering from “respiratory and gastrointestinal issues.”

In his last Facebook post, Leone wrote:

“I broke my finger. Then, completely unrelated, I went to the hospital twice in a week. First time they told me I had pneumonia. I got a second opinion. No pneumonia. This is respiratory and gastrointestinal issues stemming from being on way too much Methadone 170 mgs!! My stomach becomes so bloasted it feels like some rapid ever-expanding Willy Wonka inflated sanction.”

Tributes pour in as Ryan Leone passes away

Ryan Leone became involved with drugs at a very young age. He went on to become part of the Mendoza Clan, an infamous drug cartel which landed him in prison for five years.

It was during his time spent behind bars that he wrote his first novel. Following his release from prison, he worked towards his sobriety and began sharing his experiences to educate others.

Many took to social media to express their feelings of sadness at the passing of the writer and the prison reform activist. Others noted that though he had served time in prison, he was a "good guy at heart."

A few tributes read:

Fly high Ryan Leone you don’t have to suffer anymore god bless his family.
Gang. Some sad news to report. Ryan Leone passed away last night. I know he rubbed some the wrong way but he was a good guy at heart. All love to his family and 2 small children.
@DianeChiole WAIT, WHAT? Ryan Leone has passed? WHEN did this happen? HOW did he die? I'm SO SHOCKED & DEVASTATED!!...
@TheNamesQ This is so sad!! He worked so hard at staying clean, and he tried helping anyone that wanted to get clean. I feel so incredibly sad for his wife and young kids. I pray Creator covers them, protects them, and gives them comfort. RIP Ryan Leone

Several tributes applauded Leone for doing his best to stay off drugs and for helping those who wanted to do the same. The writer's fans were evidently heartbroken at the news of his passing.

RIP to Ryan Leone. He was a good, talented guy who’s life was cut way too short. Thanks for always being fun to talk to and for always being real.
May Ryan Leone rest in peace, strength to his family 💔…
So sorry to hear about the passing of Ryan Leone. May he RIP .
Take your time, you have now all the time in the world. Rest in peace, where ever you are #RyanLeone Thank you for everything!💔🖤#JohnnyDepp #AmberHeard…
RIP Ryan Leone sad day man.
@TheNamesQ May Ryan Leone rest peacefully and may his loved ones find comfort. 🙏

Leone was best known for his novel Wasting Talent

The Framingham, Massachusetts native took on writing at a very young age and published his first short story at the age of nine. He started working in television in his early twenties and started selling heroin at the same time. This is when he got involved with the Oaxacan Indian family, the Mendoza Clan.

Following Leon’s release from prison, he signed contracts with two major television shows.

He also wrote Wasting Talent and sold its film movie rights to William De Los Santos, who will be directing the same. Nick Stahl is expected to play the lead in the movie.


Idiot Savant: The Savage Life of Ryan Leone is a feature-length documentary about Leon’s life that is in the making as well.

In 2018, the writer launched The Prodigy Foundation. It is a nonprofit organization created to end mass incarceration and expand literacy in the American prison system.

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Edited by Madhur Dave
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