Tragic Details Found In Dana Plato's Autopsy Report

It is an unfortunate theme in Hollywood that child actors who reach stardom have trouble adapting to adulthood and tend to have a fall from grace when they fail to continue their success. Usually, troubled relationships, substance abuse, and financial instability factor into their post-puberty troubles. There are few child stars whose story is as tragic as Dana Plato's.

According to Biography, Plato was destined for stardom in two different entertainment arenas when she became a teenager. At 13 years old, Plato was already a veteran actor, appearing in commercials and films since she was 7, while also training to become a figure skater. In 1977, Plato decided to hang up the skates to focus on acting in a new sitcom. The decision would pay off almost immediately. The show, "Diff'rent Strokes," became an instant hit and Plato, along with her co-stars Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges became some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

At the same time, success proved to be a double edge sword. With her newfound fame, money, and celebrity status, all before she was old enough to vote, Plato and her co-stars began to enjoy the fruits of their success. According to News Amomama, Plato would show up drunk to work when she was just 15 years old. Three years later, she became pregnant by her 21-year-old boyfriend, musician Lanny Lambert, and was slowly written off the show.

Plato's Post "Diff'rent Strokes" Life and Fall from Grace

According to the actor who played her father on "Diff'rent Strokes," Conrad Bain (via People), Plato told her TV dad she got pregnant intentionally. Bain said Plato was excited at becoming a mother and said "when I get the baby, I will never be alone again." Plato and Lanny Lambert would marry in March 1984. Four months later, she would give birth to a son named Tyler. Hoping to continue her acting career after "Diff'rent Strokes," Plato ran into a brick wall, failing to come close to her previous success.

Her career then took a backseat in 1988 when in the span of one week, she and Lambert split, and Plato's mother, Kay Plato, died, as told by Biography. Kay and her husband adopted Dana as an infant and Kay had raised Dana by herself after she divorced her husband when Dana was 3 years old. Dana's cousin, Kim Jaafil, said the death of Kay Plato was "a real blow" and led Dana to abuse drugs and alcohol further. Lambert would gain custody of Tyler, citing Dana's substance abuse as the reason, something she agreed was best.

Plato would pose nude and appeared in low-budget movies hoping to get back into the spotlight. When that failed and her financial situation turned desperate, she infamously robbed a video store in Las Vegas for less than $200. She was soon arrested and sentenced to rehab. She would spend the rest of the decade struggling with substance abuse.

Dana Plato's Death came a Day after Appearing on Howard Stern

On May 7, 1999, 34-year-old Dana Plato appeared on "The Howard Stern Show" to discuss her life. She told the program that she was sober, which led to listeners calling in and disputing Plato's claims, the New York Post reports. Battling her emotions, she offered a lock of her hair to be tested and prove her claims. The program took her up on her offer and accepted a lock of her hair. After the program, according to Stern, Plato demanded her hair back, which Stern and producer Gary Dell'Abate refused.

According to Autopsy Files, the next day, she and her fiance and manager, Robert Menchaca, stopped off at his mother's home in Oklahoma. Living out of their recreational vehicle, Plato went to sleep in the RV. She would never wake up. Plato's autopsy report revealed she took a lethal dose of the prescription medications Soma and Vicodin. The autopsy also showed several different drugs present in her body including morphine and hydrocodone. 

Menchaca told police Plato was feeling ill and took Lortab and Valium before falling to sleep, People reports. Her death was ruled a suicide. While Stern denied the interview contributed to her death, Betty Bridges, the mother of Plato's former co-star Todd Bridges, blamed the program for Plato's death.

"After going on his show maybe she thought, 'I need to take a Valium to calm me down because people think I'm on drugs.'"

Tyler Lambert Follows his Mother

According to People, Plato became friends with a contractor when the two were mobile home neighbors living in North Florida. She confided in him her hopes to be able to regain custody of her son, but that never happened. Tyler Lambert was only 14 years old when his mother died. At one point he expressed interest in pursuing an acting career and going to Los Angeles. Instead, Tyler would become an amateur songwriter and cameraman, as told by People. Unfortunately, aside from show business, Tyler would follow his mother in another way.

On May 6, 2010, two days away from the 11th anniversary of his mother's death, Tyler took his own life by a self-inflicted gunshot. He was 25 years old. According to his grandmother, Joni Richardson, Tyler had been experimenting with drugs and alcohol for a time. She also said he struggled with coming to grips with his mother's death, noting that its closer proximity to Mother's Day made the anniversary very difficult. She said she spoke to Tyler the morning of his death and they had a nice conversation.