Agnes Tirop Olympian's Alleged Killer Arrested

3:07 PM PT -- 10/14 -- Authorities in Kenya say they've caught the person suspected of stabbing Tirop, claiming it was the man who she had been in a relationship with.

According to law enforcement, Ibrahim Rotich stabbed Tirop to death and then went into hiding.

Officials say Rotich then attempted to flee the area in a getaway car, but wrecked his ride while trying to escape -- and was eventually caught by authorities.

Police say Rotich is now "being grilled by detectives" at a local station ... and he's later expected to be arraigned on murder charges.

Story developing ...

Agnes Tirop, an elite Kenyan long-distance runner who finished 4th at the Tokyo Olympics, was tragically found stabbed to death in her home, according to a Kenyan athletic commission.

She was only 25 years old.

According to reports, police are actively looking for Agnes' husband who hasn't been seen since her death.

The BBC is reporting Agnes' father called police Tuesday night, worried he could not reach his daughter.

Sadly, when police arrived at her home in Iten, Kenya, they found Tirop laying in bed, surrounded by a pool of blood, according to the UK outlet.

Police say the runner had what looked like a stab wound to her neck ... and that's what they believe caused her death. She also reportedly had a stab wound to her stomach.

Agnes' husband was not at the home when they arrived ... and has not been heard from since authorities arrived on the scene.

Tirop was one of the best long-distance runners in the world. In fact, just last month she set a women's world record at a 10-kilometer race in Germany. Agnes also took home bronze medals at the World Athletic Championships in 2017 and 2019.

"Athletics Kenya are distraught to learn about the untimely death of World 10,000m bronze medallist Agnes Tirop," the country's athletics body said in a statement.

Everyone from Adidas to Kenya's president weighed in on the tragic loss.

"It is unsettling, utterly unfortunate and very sad that we've lost a young and promising athlete who, at a young age of 25 years, had brought our country so much glory," Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's president said in a statement.

"The Adidas family is deeply saddened by the tragic news about Agnes Jebet Tirop. Agnes was an incredible person, a record-breaking athlete and a beloved member of our family. She will be greatly missed by us all and her legacy will forever live on in our memory," the sportswear giant tweeted.

Rest in peace.

Originally Published -- 10/13 3:37 PM PT

Washington Football Team Sorry For Short Notice On Sean Taylor Honor

11:05 AM PT -- The Washington Football Team is apologizing for waiting so long to reveal the Taylor honor this weekend ... saying it should have given fans more notice.

"I'm very sorry that the short notice does not properly reflect the impact Sean had," WFT president Jason Wright said.

Wright promised to elaborate further on the team's decision later Thursday. We'll keep you posted.

The late Sean Taylor and his family will be honored with a special tribute before the Washington Football Team's game this weekend ... with the organization retiring his number and renaming the road leading to FedEx Field after him.

Taylor -- the #5 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft -- was shot and killed during a home invasion in 2007. He was just 24 years old.

Taylor emerged as one of the greatest players in the game during his 4 years in the NFL ... and was posthumously named 2nd team All-Pro in 2007.

The jersey retirement is the highest form of recognition within the WFT -- only 2 other players (Sammy Baugh and Bobby Mitchell) have received the honor.

No Washington Football Team player has worn #21 since Sean Taylor's death ... and on Sunday, the organization will make the move official.

The players will wear helmet decals and coaches will don #21 lapel pins against the K.C. Chiefs as well.

Taylor's family will be in attendance for the tribute ... and will be on the field for a special pregame ceremony. The family will also be able to visit Taylor's locker, which has been preserved from his last game.

The team will also acknowledge the renaming of the road leading to FedEx Field ... which was announced last year.

Washington Football Team President Jason Wright spoke about the weekend's ceremony ... saying, "I came into the NFL the same year as Sean Taylor and immediately his athletic ability, resilience, grit, and relentless work ethic set him apart."

"I and many others looked to him as a role model."

"The fact that he was tragically taken so early hurt our player community, but also our fans, coaches and staff. We will continue to remember him and hold him up as an example of professionalism and excellence, and we will all strive to mirror his excellence in our own ways."

#RIP

Originally Published -- 6:36 AM PT

Matthew Mindler Suicide from Sodium Nitrate OD Family Warns of Danger

Matthew Mindler killed himself with an easily accessible substance he picked up online ... and his mother wants everyone to know about the extreme danger of the compound.

The Lancaster County Medical Examiner's Office tells TMZ ... the former child star's cause of death was sodium nitrate toxicity. According to the M.E., the OD was intentional and as such his death was ruled a suicide.

If you're unfamiliar ... sodium nitrate is an oxidizing agent -- one often used to preserve foods, like meat -- that causes hypotension and limits the flow of oxygen in the body, which can result in death.

While sodium nitrate deaths are often accidental, Matt's was anything but ... this according to his mom, Monica, who says she discovered a harrowing trail Matthew left behind.

Monica tells us she looked up Matt's recent Internet search histories, and it turns out ... he was looking up information on this lethal compound as it pertained to suicide, and ways to obtain it and take it for the ultimate effect of ending one's life painlessly.

We're told she had no clue this was something he'd been exploring prior to his body being found by school officials near his university in Pennsylvania -- but more importantly, she wants this to serve as a cautionary tale for others.

Monica hopes someone else's life can be saved if folks know what warning signs to look for ... as this is a fairly cheap product Matthew seems to have ordered on Amazon with relative ease, at just $15, which Monica says was enough to kill 4 people.

In other words ... awareness is everything, and she hopes Matthew's story serves as a wake-up call.

Ex-MLB Star Ray Fosse Dead At 74

Ex-MLB catcher Ray Fosse -- famous for the wild play at home plate with Pete Rose in the 1970 All-Star Game -- died at 74 years old on Wednesday.

The Oakland A's announced the sad news ... saying they were "heartbroken" over the passing.

"Few people epitomize what it means to be an Athletic more than Ray," Oakland officials said in a statement. "He was the type of franchise icon who always made sure every player, coach, colleague, and fan knew that they were part of the Oakland A's family."

Fosse -- who worked as an analyst breaking down A's games following a 12-year MLB career -- said in August he had been fighting cancer for over a decade.

Sadly, after battling the disease for years, he passed away this week.

"We send our deepest condolences to Carol, Nikki and Lindsey, his family and friends during this difficult time," the A's added. "We'll miss you, Ray.”

Fosse was a two-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champ, and a two-time Gold Glover ... but he was perhaps best known for a collision with Rose in the 1970 Mid-Summer Classic.

In the game, Rose trucked through Fosse to score the winning run ... and it ultimately altered Fosse's career and life.

The catcher suffered major injuries during the play -- ones that affected the rest of his playing days -- though he still was able to play effectively for several more years.

Fosse ultimately finished his career with 61 home runs, a .256 batting average and 324 RBI.

"My deepest condolences to the Fosse family," said Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, who not only played with Fosse but worked with him as an A's analyst as well.

"Ray was a dear friend. I cherished our long history and will miss him dearly. Oakland Coliseum will never be the same without Ray."

RIP

Mona Rodriguez Fatally Shot by School Safety Officer ... Outraged Brothers Demand Answers!!!

WE WANT ANSWERS
TMZSports.com

Mona Rodriguez was shot in the head by a school resource officer while fleeing the scene of a fight -- unarmed, no less -- and now that she's died ... her family is seeking accountability.

Oscar and Iran Rodriguez -- Mona's older brothers -- came on "TMZ Live" Wednesday to discuss this tragic story that went down in Long Beach, CA. Mona had gotten into a fight, and while attempting to leave the scene in her boyfriend's car ... a campus cop who'd responded decided to open fire on them.

One of the bullets Eddie Gonzalez fired struck Mona in the head ... leaving her hospitalized on life support. After doctors determined Mona was brain dead, the life support was turned off -- and now the Rodriguez brothers find themselves in a nightmarish battle to get any measure of justice.

As they explained to us, they feel they're getting the cold shoulder from Long Beach officials, including Mayor Robert Garcia, as well as L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon.

As they say, they just want answers ... and more importantly, they want justice for their slain sibling, who leaves behind an infant child -- now in the care of their mother.

Oscar and Iran have been outspoken since the killing, calling for the arrest of Gonzalez -- who's since been fired from his job with the school district -- but to this point, all they know is Long Beach PD is investigating Mona's death as a homicide.

The brothers made it clear they want the D.A. to charge Gonzalez with Mona's murder.

BTW, a GoFundMe has been started for Mona's family and baby ... and they're grateful for any help they can get.

Gabby Petito Family Heads to WY to Retrieve Body ... And to Get Update on Case

Gabby Petito's body has been held and studied for a month to determine how she died -- and now that we know, her family is finally allowed to go get her and lay her to rest.

The late 22-year-old's parents are reportedly heading to Wyoming Wednesday morning from the east coast -- where they'll retrieve her remains, have her cremated ... and then return to New York this weekend with her ashes.

It also sounds like law enforcement will brief her mom, father and stepfather on the latest updates in the case.

The family has reportedly said they won't be commenting on anything to the media until they're back in NY -- although, Gabby's mother did speak out against the Laundrie family lawyer Tuesday after he called her death a "tragedy" upon release of the autopsy findings.

You'll recall ... the Teton County coroner publicly announced Gabby's cause of death, which took quite a long time to conclusively uncover. Turns out, she was manually strangled to death at the hands of a person.

CAUSE OF DEATH ANNOUNCED

The coroner noted that Gabby's homicide seemed to be carried out in "a lot of anger" -- while also pointing out her body had been left out in the wilderness for at least 3 for 4 weeks before she was finally found last month.

Of course, the one person law enforcement still wants to talk to -- but can't seem to find -- is Gabby's fiance, Brian Laundrie ... who's considered to be the prime person of interest in the case, and one of the last people to have seen her alive.

8/12/2021
INTERACTION WITH MOAB POLICE
Moab Police Department

The couple was traveling cross-country together through much of the summer, and had squabbles along the way -- most notably in August, when cops in Moab, Utah responded to a report Brian had struck Gabby.

Brian returned to Florida in the van they'd rented, without Gabby, and then vanished into thin air shortly before she was reported missing.

Gabby Petito Strangled to Death Laundrie Family: It's a 'Tragedy'

CAUSE OF DEATH ANNOUNCED

12:15 PM PT -- The Laundrie family attorney, Steve Bertolino, told NewsNation Now correspondent Brian Entin that "Gabby Petito's death at such a young age is a tragedy."

The family added, "While Brian Laundrie is currently charged with the unauthorized use of a debit card belonging to Gabby, Brian is only considered a person of interest in relation to Gabby Petito’s demise. At this time Brian is still missing and when he is located we will address the pending fraud charge against him."

11:34 AM PT -- The Teton County Coroner kept the presser brief, revealing Gabby died by strangulation ... while maintaining her death is a homicide. He also estimates the time she was killed might've been 3 to 4 weeks before her remains were found.

As for why it took so long to come to this conclusion ... the coroner says they were waiting on toxicology, as well as for certain specialists -- like an anthropologist, who was apparently consulted for this -- to weigh in ... saying they wanted to be exact and get it right.

The coroner also noted ... Gabby was NOT pregnant.

Gabby Petito's cause of death is about to be revealed after weeks of waiting on a coroner's findings -- and TMZ is streaming the highly anticipated results live.

The autopsy report is being discussed Tuesday during a press conference and comes several weeks after investigators found her remains at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming last month.

As you know by now, the coroner ruled her death a homicide.

Now, the last pieces of the puzzle in this tragedy are finally coming together -- and may very well back up what her family suspected all along ... that she was brutalized, and left out in the wilderness to perish.

Of course, the one answer that remains elusive ... who's responsible, and obviously why? The prime person of interest is Gabby's fiance, Brian Laundrie, who has gone missing and for whom a manhunt has been launched.

Laundrie remains unaccounted for, despite a handful of alleged sightings in different parts of the country.

There was a suspected sighting nearly 500 miles away from where he was living in North Port, FL -- with a man claiming to have spotted somebody on his deer cam who looked like Brian -- but cops have said they have no reason to believe, for now, Brian's in the area.

Most recently a hiker claimed to have seen Brian on the Appalachian Trail ... but nothing concrete there either. Dog the Bounty Hunter also joined the nationwide manhunt.

As we reported ... Dog's hitting the pause button on his search -- this after injuring himself on the job.

10/3/21
DOG DOWN IN THE SWAMPS
@duanedogchapman / Instagram

As for Laundrie's family ... they say he went hiking sometime in mid-September, but never returned. This follows an already incredibly suspicious return back to Florida without any trace of Gabby. Her family's blasted Brian and his family for clamming up on providing answers.

The feds issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie but NOT for Gabby's death -- it was for Use of Unauthorized Access Devices. Prosecutors claimed Laundrie used a Capital One Bank debit card from August 30 to Sept. 1 to purchase stuff totaling at least $1,000.

The feds haven't said it was Gabby's card, but that doesn't seem like much of a leap.

8/12/2021
INTERACTION WITH MOAB POLICE
Moab Police Department

Just a few days later ... the FBI visited the Laundrie residence to retrieve some personal items in hopes they might have his DNA on them.

One thing we do know about Gabby and Brian's recent past is that they had a confrontation in Utah ... something that was briefly investigated by a police officer, who recorded one of the final images of her alive, and crying.

REPORTING A DISTURBANCE
Fox News

And, a witness called 911 shortly before Gabby's disappearance, telling the dispatcher he saw Brian slap and hit Gabby during an argument.

Now, we're going to learn what happened to her after that ... once and for all.

Originally Published -- 11:00 AM PT

'Ex on the Beach' Chris Pearson Fight Over Being Loud Led to Fatal Stabbing

Chris Pearson's death was the result of someone losing it on him for being loud and disruptive in his apartment complex in the middle of the night ... sources with direct knowledge tell TMZ.

Our sources say the former "Ex on the Beach" star was down in the pool area with his girlfriend, making a lot of noise around 2 AM Sunday.  We're told Chris was yelling ... it's unclear at who, but it pissed off the other residents who were trying to sleep.

We're told Chris ignored everyone, but then someone on one of the balconies amped things up and was yelling hard at Chris, who in turn started screaming back at the guy. Our sources say Chris went inside the building to confront the guy ... and that's when he was fatally stabbed in the area around his heart.

Our sources say the guy who stabbed him fled before authorities arrived.

As we first told you ... Chris was rushed to a hospital, but died around 3:30 AM from his injuries.

According to our sources ... Chris was not normally a confrontational guy, but that wasn't the case during the incident.

Law enforcement sources tell us ... cops are investigating and looking for witnesses and videos that may help them figure out what went down, but so far no arrests have been made. Our law enforcement sources say cops are confident they'll catch the guy.

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Chris was a professional DJ and one of the most memorable cast members on the first season of 'EOTB.' He was just 25.

Fuquan Johnson Family Fentanyl Strips Could've Saved Him His Own Mother Speaks Out

Fuquan Johnson may very well be alive today if there was an effective way to screen drugs he took for fentanyl -- and it's something that shouldn't be ignored ... so says his own mom.

The comedian's mother, Paulene Johnson, tells TMZ ... she's 100% in favor of fentanyl strips being used, and firmly believes her son might still be breathing right now if he had access to some on the night he and two others overdosed and perished from fentanyl-laced cocaine.

We should note, Paulene is NOT advocating for recreational drug use -- even telling us she wasn't aware Fuquan partook himself beyond weed -- but she acknowledges the reality ... that people are going to dabble, and if so -- why not be safe about it?

She believes folks who do hard drugs are stuck between a rock and a hard place in an OD sitch ... fearful of incriminating themselves by calling cops. With that said, Paulene says fentanyl strips could be a good alternative for users looking to avoid that entire scene.

Paulene says parties need to be made safer by any means necessary -- and if fentanyl strips are a viable option to prevent deaths, she's all for it.

As she sadly notes to us ... she buried her son last month, and shouldn't have had to.

TMZ broke the story ... Fuquan was one of three comedians who OD'd and died at a party in Venice -- this after cops believe they ingested coke laced with the deadly opioid. Kate Quigley, the 4th comedian who also overdosed, survived the ordeal ... and is on the road to recovery.

He was just 43.

Chris Pearson 'Ex on the Beach' Star Dead at 25 After Stabbing in L.A.

Chris Pearson, one of the first contestants on MTV's hit show, "Ex on the Beach," is dead from a stabbing incident ... TMZ has learned.

Chris died over the weekend according to several of his friends and law enforcement. We're told he got into an altercation early Sunday, around 2 AM, in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, and the other person ended up stabbing him. He was transported to a hospital, but died around 3:30 AM from his injuries.

Friends have started a GoFundMe for his family back in Colorado -- Chris' home state -- and the page describes the circumstances of his death as a "tragic encounter."

Chris, a professional DJ, appeared on the first season of 'EOTB' ... and, although the whole concept of the show is bring together castoffs from other reality shows ... Pearson was one of the few who seemingly had no prior TV experience.

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On the show, 2 of his exes were brought on to confront Chris -- which is the whole gimmick of the show -- who came off as a party boy, but also got vulnerable ... crying on camera over one his old GFs.

All-in-all, he appeared in all 11 episodes, and provided some of the show's best drama. Since his time on 'Ex' ... he's gone on to continue his music career with much success.

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One of Chris' fellow MTV stars acknowledged his passing -- Taylor Selfridge from 'Teen Mom' commented under his last IG post ... dropping sad face emojis and prayer hands. Others are leaving similar comments.

We're told police are investigating the stabbing, and they have leads. Our law enforcement sources say it's a "solvable case."

Chris was only 25.

RIP

Opioid Crisis As Kate Quigley Recovers ... Fentanyl Strips Seen as Key

Kate Quigley says she's getting back to her old self as her recovery from a near-fatal overdose -- spurred by fentanyl-laced cocaine -- continues ... which begs the question ... why don't more people know about (or use) strips that can detect the lethal poison?

The comedian recently posted an update on her journey back to normal, suggesting she was getting some sort of rehab done down in Mexico ... where she thanked everyone who'd helped her thus far get back to the old Kate everyone knows and loves.

It's an encouraging sign for sure -- but the deaths of Fuquan Johnson, Rico Angeli and Natalie Williamson still linger ... and with the advent of fentanyl strips -- which have been on the market for at least a couple years or so -- it makes one wonder if they could've made a difference here.

If you're unfamiliar ... these strips come exactly as advertised. They're able to be applied to just about any drug and like a litmus test ... can tell you if the narcotics have the opioid or not. While not always 100% effective, they do seem to work more often than not ... and are sometimes distributed to drug users. Although, not nearly as much as they should be.

Whether it's simply a lack of awareness or a taboo issue ... you really don't hear about these strips being talked about. And yet, they're out there ... and can absolutely save lives.

In fact, USC students have recently started to dabble in this ... forming a delivery service specifically for this -- among other drug resources -- to help protect the "naïve drug user." The strips are only a penny a pop, so they're certainly affordable ... and now widely available to students on campus who may be experimenting.

That's California ... but it looks like there are a handful of states across the country that take a different approach to this -- essentially outlawing these strips because they're viewed as "paraphernalia" ... perpetuating the old "Just Say No" D.A.R.E. mentality, which is antiquated.

Bottom line ... if these strips can help, why not talk about them and get them out in the community??? It's a legit question, and one that perhaps needs to be posed to our elected leaders ... because this crisis is no joke, and killing people off by the second.

'Oz' Star Granville Adams Dead at 58 ... After Cancer Battle

Granville Adams -- famous for his ongoing role as Zahir Arif in "Oz" -- has died after a battle with cancer.

His costar, Kirk Acevedo, made the announcement Sunday ... writing, "I lost my brotha today after a long battle with cancer. I don’t do well with loss because I'm unfamiliar with it." He adds, "Yo Granny we'll be chopping it up on the other side one day. Until then… Rest easy my friend."

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Adams appeared to announce his diagnosis back in December of last year, posting a photo of himself in a hospital bed, looking ill, and captioning it ... "F*** CANCER!"

His "Oz" family started a GoFundMe on his behalf shortly thereafter, explaining that the guy's hospital bills were mounting for both him and his family ... asking the public for help. At the time, they wrote ... "In this quarter alone, the unpaid bills have piled up to $69,550. We want to gather together and show Granville our love by clearing this quarter’s bills, giving Granville concrete support in his fight against this vicious disease."

The GFM also notes that Adams hadn't been able to work over the past year (2020) and that all funds would be donated directly to his loved ones. As of this writing, it's reached nearly $100k in contributions.

Like we said, GA is perhaps best known for appearing on 48 episodes of the hit HBO show, first appearing as a guest and then a recurring supporting role until it went off the air in 2003. Adams played Arif -- a Muslim inmate who served as a lieutenant to Kareem Said.

Adams had a few other acting credits under his belt ... including roles in "Homicide: Life on the Streets," the movie "Empire" and "Magic City Memoirs."

Granville is survived by his wife, Christina. He was 58.

RIP

Bodybuilder George Peterson Dead At 37 ... Found In Hotel Room

Bodybuilder George Peterson -- AKA "Da Bull" -- unexpectedly passed away this week at only 37, just days before he was scheduled to compete in a top bodybuilding competition.

"It is with great sadness that we report the unexpected passing of George Peterson, a champion on stage and off," officials from the Mr. Olympia competition announced on social media.

Peterson was in Orlando when he died -- preparing for the Olympia competition -- which kicks off Wednesday.

The cause of George's death is not yet clear, but his coach and close friend, Justin Miller -- who found Peterson deceased -- provided additional details on his death.

Miller says Peterson was in incredible spirits the night before he died ... and was pumped for the upcoming competition.

However, the next day, Miller says GP wasn't responding to texts or phone calls ... so he became worried, and went to George's hotel room.

Inside, tragically, Peterson was face down on the floor, cold. Still, Miller, desperate to help his friend, called 911 and was instructed to do CPR.

Unfortunately, Peterson -- who likely passed several hours earlier -- could not be saved.

George was a constant figure on the bodybuilding circuit ... competing at shows across the country, including the Olympia 4 times.

Peterson won the Classic Physique competition at the 2019 Arnold Classic.

Many people from the bodybuilding and fitness world -- from athletes to fans -- have expressed sadness at Peterson's unexpected passing.

RIP

Matiss Kivlenieks Jackets Will Honor Late Goalie ... On Opening Night

Matiss Kivleneiks will be honored when the Columbus Blue Jackets take the ice on opening night ... with the late goalie's family set to attend the tribute.

The 24-year-old tragically died after suffering serious damage to his lungs and heart during a fireworks mishap at a Jackets coaches 4th of July party.

Matiss -- who signed with the Blue Jackets in 2019 -- was deemed a hero by his teammate, Elvis Merzlikins, for his actions during the fatal incident ... saying MK saved his family from the firework.

Kivleneiks' family will make the trip from Latvia to perform the ceremonial puck drop when CBJ takes on the Arizona Coyotes to kick off the season ... including his mother, stepfather, sister and aunt.

The team says a banner featuring MK's #80 will also be unveiled and will hang in the rafters at Nationwide Arena for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.

Blue Jackets players will also wear an "80" sticker on their helmets throughout the season.

After his tragic death, the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation established the Matiss Kivleneiks Memorial Fund to support youth hockey initiatives in Columbus and his native Latvia.

RIP

Sammy Hagar, EVH Widow Pay Tribute to Late Rock Star ... On 1-Year Death Anniversary

Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen's widow are paying tribute to the late rock star on the 1-year anniversary of his sad passing.

Sammy posted a black and white picture of EVH strumming his guitar while in mid-air and his long hair flailing away. Sammy, who was part of the "Van Hagar" era from 1985 to 1996, said, "I can't believe it's been a year. The man is gone but the music lives on #forever."

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Eddie's widow, Janie, also posted a touching tribute saying she thinks about EVH every single day. She said among the things she misses the most ... his smile, laugh and kindness.

Janie added, "I miss this, I miss us, I miss you, and I try my best to carry on the way you would want me to. But my Peep, some days, that's really hard to do. This will never get easier because there really is no getting over you."

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TMZ broke the story ... Eddie died following a long battle with cancer. He died at a Santa Monica hospital with Janie and his son, Wolfgang, by his side. Eddie's ex-wife, Valerie Bertinelli, and Eddie's brother/drummer, Alex, were also by his side.

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Speaking of Wolfie ... he also posted a picture on Instagram during a guitar sesh with his dad. Wolf wrote, "You fought so hard for so long, but you were still taken away. It’s just so unfair."

Eddie was 65.

Ndakasi Viral Selfie Gorilla Dies at 14

Ndakasi, the orphaned gorilla photographed in an incredible selfie in 2019, has died in the arms of her caretaker ... according to a spokesperson at the national park were she lived.

The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo broke the sad news of the passing of its beloved orphaned mountain gorilla, saying she died last month after battling a prolonged illness.

According to the park ... Ndakasi "took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, Andre Bauma."

Bauma had looked after the gorilla ever since she was found clinging her to dead mother's body and taken to the park's Senkwekwe Center, where she lived for more than a decade. Virunga says Ndakasi's mom was killed by armed militia in a series of gorilla slayings.

Bauma says, "It was a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature, especially knowing the trauma Ndakasi suffered at a very young age."

If you don't recall ... Ndakasi went viral in 2019 thanks to an amazing photo of her and another orphaned gorilla in a park ranger's selfie. Virunga National Park responded to all the attention it got at the time, saying ... "Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities!"

Bauma adds ... "I loved her like a child and her cheerful personality brought a smile to my face every time I interacted with her. She will be missed by all of us at Virunga but we are forever grateful for the richness Ndakasi brought to our lives during her time at Senkwekwe."

The Great Ape was 14.

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