Robert De Niro on tragic death of his 19-year-old grandson: 'It shouldn’t have happened'

Robert De Niro lost one of his most beloved family members in 2023 and it is said that it took him to a dark place. Here's what happened.

Robert De Niro tragic news
© Mondadori Portfolio / Contributor / Getty Images
Robert De Niro tragic news

Robert De Niro was struck with a tragic and devastating loss in July 2023, proving that death doesn’t spare anyone, famous or not, old or young, rich or poor.

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Just a few months early the Goodfellas actor, Robert De Niro, at the age of 79, welcomed his seventh child with his girlfriend Tiffany Chen, with whom he shares a 34-year age gap. But amidst the happy news, tragedy struck the De Niro family, and took away with it one of its young members.

This horrific incident left Robert De Niro in a dark place. Here’s what happened.

Robert De Niro’s tragic loss

It is said that Robert De Niro wasn't in a great place following the tragic and untimely loss of his grandson Leandro. 19-year-old, Leo, who passed away on 2 July 2023, was found dead in his apartment on Wall Street. Leandro was similar to his grandfather, given that he was an aspiring actor, has played a small part in the movie A Star Is Born.

Being the son of 56-year-old Drena De Niro (Robert’s oldest child) has left an enormous gaping hole in the lives of the entire De Niro clan. Leandro sadly joins the list of celebrities who died in 2023.

More details on Leandro’s death

Leandro was found unconscious and unresponsive in his home. He was soon identified and pronounced dead by EMS, as per reports by the NYPD.

In the beginning, there was no official statement of confirmation by the police on the cause of the death, however there were some major speculations floating around.

As per Entertainment Daily, Drena had said that her son died as the result of 'fentanyl-laced pills' provided by someone who knew they were dangerous. She also said that Leandro did not deserve this, in an Instagram post. Her post started out by thanking her Instagram family for the messages, calls, and emails, and then she went on to mourn her beloved son. This is what she said in her Instagram post:

None of this is right or fair and my heart hurts in a way I never knew possible while still breathing and barely functioning. Leo my darling I love you today like the first day I held you in my arms.
You didn't deserve to die like this but I can only believe that God needed a strong powerful angel in their army. I'm holding you every second of every moment I'm my heart and memories until I'm with you again.

A month later, the speculation was put to rest as the New York City chief medical examiner's office confirmed the cause of death to People. They wrote that he died due to the:

toxic effects of fentanyl, bromazolam, alprazolam, 7-aminoclonazepam, ketamine, and cocaine.

An accidental overdose...

A few weeks after his death, a young 20-year-old woman, known to be a drug dealer was linked to his death. Sofia Haley Marks, also known as Percocet Princess as per New York Post, was arrested by the police on federal charges of selling drugs specifically to Leandro Rodriguez.

CBS News reports that 'she faced three counts of distribution of narcotics'. Moreover, it was alleged that on July 1, she sold three counterfeit oxycodone pills that were laced with fentanyl along with two counterfeit Xanax pills.

Robert De Niro’s reaction to the death

After the death of his grandchild, the Taxi Driver actor was in bad shape. He was allegedly keeping a low profile and seemed emotional and sombre during Leonardo’s wake. He also requested privacy as the family mourned the tragic loss of its young member.

As per Radar Online, a source said the following on Robert’s state of mind after the loss:

Bob had a real fondness for Leo. He’s retreated to a very dark place. Everyone’s praying he finds the strength he needs to carry on.

Besides this, Robert De Niro released a statement as well, about the tragic loss of his beloved family member, he said the following.

I’m deeply distressed by the passing of my beloved grandson, Leo. We’re greatly appreciative of the condolences from everyone.

De Niro's struggle 7 months later

More recently, he exclusively spoke to People in February 2024 about his grandchild's sudden death. As per the publication, the 80-year-old star said he was in 'disbelief' when he first heard the news. He said:

[I] never thought it would happen.

He goes on to explain his innermost thoughts, sharing that he thinks of all the things 'he could have' or 'should have maybe done with him'. While not knowing whether it would have had an impact, he says those thoughts are always 'playing through his mind'.

He concluded by saying: 'It shouldn’t have happened'.

Read more:

Robert De Niro reveals the name and gender of his newborn baby with Tiffany Chen

Robert de Niro in mourning: His 19-year-old grandson Leandro's cause of death revealed

Robert De Niro: Everything we know about his adoptive daughter Drena De Niro


Insider: Robert De Niro's grandson Leandro has died at age 19: 'You were so deeply loved,' says the teen's mother, Drena De Niro

Entertainment Daily: Robert De Niro’s daughter makes upsetting claim about her son Leandro’s cause of death

People: Robert De Niro Felt ‘Disbelief’ After His Grandson’s Overdose Death: ‘It Shouldn’t Have Happened’ (Exclusive)

CBS News: Cause of death revealed for Robert De Niro's grandson Leandro

New York Post: ‘Percocet Princess’ busted in death of Robert de Niro’s grandson has sold to kids as young as 15 years old: cops

Robert de Niro in mourning: His 19-year-old grandson Leandro's cause of death revealed Robert de Niro in mourning: His 19-year-old grandson Leandro's cause of death revealed