Death of Actress Vanessa Marquez Saddens, Frustrates South Pasadena

Investigations and Memorials Underway

PHOTO: News | Actress Vanessa Marquez lived in one of the three apartments in this Fremont Avenue home.

While the world remains in shock over the violent death of actress Vanessa Marquez, the tight-knit community of South Pasadena struggles to find a way to honor the memory of a friend and neighbor.

No funeral arrangements for Marquez have been announced. Her father is deceased and Marquez told friends she had been estranged from her mother for a long time. However, she had a legion of friends who are coming together to find a way to memorialize her life.

“This is a girl who has been abandoned by everyone,” said Cheryl Hansen, an actress and close friend of Marquez. “I don’t know the reasons why. Perhaps she pushed some people away, but she has needed help for a very long time.”

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On Sunday, Hansen created a Facebook page, titled “Friends of Vanessa Marquez Memorial,” for an event tentatively scheduled for Sept. 22 at 11 a.m. The location is still to be determined.

Meanwhile, two separate investigations by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office into the officer-involved shooting of Marquez are underway.

“We believe our officers acted appropriately under a tragic set of circumstances,” according to a statement by City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe. “We look forward to hearing the results of the investigation. In the meantime, we are asking the public to be patient and wait until the facts of the case are confirmed before making judgments about the incident.”

As reported last week by the SouthPasadenan, police said they had been called to the Marquez residence on several occasions in the past for help. On Thursday, Marquez’s landlord called police to report Marquez was having medical trouble.

Accompanied by a county mental health clinician, police say they spent 90 minutes at the home in an effort to provide help. Ultimately, Marquez became agitated and armed herself with what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun that was later identified as BB-type gun, according to Lt. Joe Mendoza, of the LA Sheriff’s homicide bureau.

“When they arrived, she was experiencing a seizure,” Mendoza said shortly after Marquez’s death. “They were just trying to help, but the incident quickly turned tragic,”

PHOTO: News | This north-facing window was damaged during Thursday’s shooting.

Marquez loved South Pasadena for its small-town character. She loved to drop in at Fiore Market Café, a beloved neighborhood eatery where she felt at home.

As her career and health and natural sunny disposition in life all seemed to decline, Marquez spent much of her time in her small apartment, bedridden by celiac disease, fibromyalgia and depression. She’d tweet or post on social media about her passions and struggles — from her love of Star Wars and admiration for actresses like Carrie Fisher to the hardships of living with a terminal disease and debilitating pain.

The actress also said she was suffering from financial woes and facing possible eviction. She acknowledged she was down to 82 pounds.

Marquez was shot in her torso at the landing of the stairwell in the three-apartment house she called home. Police have not yet released information about how many times police fired but said Marquez did not fire a shot.

There is an undercurrent of confusion and anger swirling throughout South Pasadena about how a frail woman with a history of medical calls to police wound up shot to death.

While some are trying to focus on Marquez’s life and legacy, others are “growing more and more angry everyday,” according to one longtime resident. “This is going to be a long uncomfortable journey to the truth.”

The Epilepsy Foundation issued a statement in response to Marquez’s death, acknowledging it did not have specific details about Marquez’s final tragic moments but that the incident, nonetheless, served as a reminder for why it is important for others to learn how to recognize seizures and administer seizure first aid.

“Although most seizures usually last only for a few minutes, it is very common to have a period of confusion, dazedness, and lack of awareness following a seizure (post-seizure phase) when the person is unable to respond to directions or commands,” according to the statement. “…there is a long history of people having seizures or in a post-seizures state in public being mishandled or even physically harmed by law enforcement and first responders.”

On Sunday, aside from a boarded up window damaged in last week’s fray, the house was indistinguishable from any other on the 1100 block of Fremont Avenue.

On the front steps, there were no flowers. No balloons. No signs of a memorial or tribute to an actress who gained worldwide fame for her talent and prowess in front of a camera. If there were, they had been removed.

Marquez first earned Hollywood acclaim for her turn as a smart and spunky teenager in the 1986 film “Stand and Deliver” and later as a sweet but tough-as-nails nurse on the television medical drama “ER.”

Over the weekend, former fellow cast members took to social media to express their sadness.

“Heart sick to learn of the tragic passing of my friend, Vanessa Marquez,” actor Lou Diamond Phillips wrote late Friday. “I was not aware of the pain she endured due to her conditions and saddened to think that they may have contributed to her untimely demise. Her light and her soul still shine in the performances she gave us.”


Actor James Woods tweeted about the need for more awareness surrounding mental illness.

“This is an absolute tragedy. We must help people who are suffering from mental instability issues and full blown mental illness,” Woods said. “Millions of Americans are vulnerable. For every well known person like #VanessaMarquez, so many others fall through the cracks.”

Marquez made headlines last year when she alleged that former “ER” star George Clooney of blacklisting her from the show for complaining to executives about harassment on the set. Clooney has denied the allegations.

Hansen, Marquez’s friend, said Marquez’s life deserves to be honored in a way befitting the actress with an endearing personality.

“The community needs to heal. Her friends need to heal,” Hansen said. “We need to honor Vanessa, and we should do that with a memorial service in a place that she liked, in a town that she liked — and that is South Pasadena.”