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Dana Plato’s Death Ruled a Suicide

May 21, 1999 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Former child actress Dana Plato’s drug-overdose death was ruled a suicide Friday, not an accident as initially believed.

The 34-year-old former star of the NBC sitcom ``Diff’rent Strokes″ died May 8 while visiting her fiance’s parents in Moore. Police initially said she died of an accidental overdose of a painkiller and Valium.

But Dr. Larry E. Balding, deputy state medical examiner, said Friday that she had fatal concentrations of the muscle relaxant Soma and a generic form of the painkiller Lortab in her body. She also had the equivalent of seven tablets of the muscle relaxant in her stomach.

Balding said the death was ruled a suicide because of the high level of drugs and her history of suicidal tendencies. She did not leave a suicide note.

Ms. Plato had been prescribed both drugs _ according to her fiance, for back injuries she suffered in a car accident.

Ms. Plato’s life went into a tailspin after the sitcom’s cancellation in 1984. In 1991, she was arrested for robbing a Las Vegas video store and placed on five years’ probation. A year later, she was given another five years’ probation for forging prescriptions for Valium.

``If I hadn’t gotten caught, it could have been the worst thing that happened to me because I could have died of a drug overdose,″ she said then.

The day before her death, Ms. Plato went on Howard Stern’s radio show in New York to deny a former roommate’s claims that she was on drugs. Ms. Plato insisted she had been sober for about 10 years but said she had taken painkillers when her wisdom teeth were removed four months ago.