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Brad Renfro Dies at 25

TUESDAY JANUARY 15, 2008 08:00 PM EST

By Howard Breuer and Marla Lehner

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Brad Renfro

Photo by: Stephen Shugerman / Getty

Actor Brad Renfro has died at age 25, PEOPLE has confirmed.

Renfro died Tuesday at a Los Angeles apartment where he spent the night with friends, Craig Harvey, chief investigator for the Los Angeles county coroner, tells PEOPLE.

Renfro was heard snoring overnight, but found not breathing later Tuesday morning, and the friends called 911. Paramedics declared him dead at the scene at about 9 a.m., Harvey says.

A cause of death was not immediately determined, but Renfro had a history of drug problems.

Drug overdose is a "possibility considering his history, but right now all we have is the history of his drinking the previous night," Harvey says. "All that we have is that he was last known to be alive during the morning hours and he was snoring."

The actor, who starred in The Client and Apt Pupil, had recently completed a movie with Winona Ryder and Billy Bob Thornton.

Film director Joel Schumacher discovered Renfro at age 12 and cast him in the 1994 John Grisham movie The Client (which also starred Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones). The following year, PEOPLE named the young screen hopeful one of its "Top 30 Under 30." The actor's other credits include Tom and Huck, Ghost World and Deuces Wild.

But Renfro had a troubled life off-screen, going back to 1997 when he was sentenced to two years of probation after he tried to steal a yacht.

In 2005, Renfro was busted again, this time in a police sting in which he was charged with a felony count of attempting to possess heroin. In a separate incident, he was charged with a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence and two counts of driving with a suspended license.

In January 2006, he entered a rehab program. At the time, Renfro's attorney, Richard Kaplan, told the Los Angeles Times that his client was doing well and "looks forward to doing whatever is necessary to take care of his personal and legal issues." Renfro eventually plead guilty to the heroin charge and was sentenced to three years' probation.

Most recently, in June 2007 Renfro was found to have violated his probation by not enrolling in a long-term drug treatment program. A judge warned him that if he violated probation two more times, he could be sentence to a live-in rehab program or to jail time.

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Troubled Actor Brad Renfro

by Jacob Adelman, Associated Press Writer

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Young Actor Brad Renfro

LOS ANGELES, California -- Actor Brad Renfro, whose career began promisingly with a childhood role in "The Client" but rapidly faded as he struggled with drugs and alcohol, was found dead Tuesday, January 15 in his home. He was 25.

Paramedics pronounced him dead at 9 a.m., said Craig Harvey, chief investigator for the Los Angeles County coroner's office. The cause of death was not immediately determined, Harvey said, but an autopsy could be conducted as early as Wednesday.

Renfro had reportedly been drinking with friends the evening before his death, Harvey said. Renfro's lawyer, Richard Kaplan, said he did not know whether the death was connected to any problems with addiction. "He was working hard on his sobriety," Kaplan said. "He was doing well. He was a nice person."

Renfro recently completed a role in "The Informers," a film adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis novel that stars Winona Ryder, Brandon Routh and Billy Bob Thornton. "Brad was an exceptionally talented young actor and our time spent with him was thoroughly enjoyable," Marco Weber, president of the film's production house, Senator Entertainment, said in a statement.

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Child Actor Brad Renfro

The actor served 10 days in jail in May 2006 after pleading no contest to driving while intoxicated and guilty to attempted possession . After one court appearance, he talked to reporters about drug rehabilitation, saying he was "tired of paying the consequences" for drinking and drug use and eager to get clean.

"It's definitely been an eye-opener," Renfro said of his rehabilitation program. Other run-ins with the law included a 1998 charge of cocaine and marijuana possession, for which he avoided jail time in a plea deal.

He was also placed on probation in January 2001 and ordered to pay $4,000 for repairs to a 45-foot yacht he and a friend tried to steal in Florida in August 2000. He was arrested again in May 2001 and charged with underage drinking, violating the terms of his probation, and was ordered into alcohol rehabilitation the following March.

A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Renfro's film career began when he was 12, acting opposite Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones in "The Client." His other credits included "Sleepers," "Deuces Wild," "Apt Pupil" and "The Jacket."

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