Autopsy: Green Book Actor Died From Accidental OD

Frank Vallelonga's body was dumped on a sidewalk in the Bronx
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2022 3:45 PM CST
Updated Apr 10, 2023 2:13 PM CDT
Green Book Actor Found Dead on Bronx Street
Frank Vallelonga Jr.   (YouTube/E! News)
UPDATE Apr 10, 2023 2:13 PM CDT

An autopsy has determined that actor Frank Vallelonga Jr. died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl and cocaine before his body was dumped on a sidewalk in the Bronx last year, according to a New York City medical examiner. Police said they suspected an overdose when the 60-year-old, who played his real-life uncle in Green Book, was found dead in an industrial area on Nov. 28, the New York Daily News. A man charged with concealment of a corpse told police that he "didn't know the guy at all." Steven Smith said Vallelonga was already dead when a woman called Pam told him the man had overdosed in a vehicle and asked for help getting rid of the body.

Dec 2, 2022 3:45 PM CST

Police in the Bronx are investigating the death of 60-year-old actor Frank Vallelonga—best known for playing his real-life uncle in the Oscar-winning film Green Book. Officers found the body of Vallelonga outside a sheet-metal factory early Monday, per the Hollywood Reporter. He had suffered no obvious trauma, say police. Surveillance video led police to arrest 35-year-old Steven Smith, who was allegedly seen dumping Vallelonga's body at the scene after pulling it from a vehicle, reports the New York Times.

Smith, who has been charged with concealment of a corpse, told police that Vallelonga had overdosed but that he didn't know him. The criminal complaint says a woman he identified as "Pam" approached him and told him someone had OD'd in the car, and "I went to the car and drove off." He admitted disposing of the body, per the Times. Smith is due back in court next month, and the Legal Aid Society, which is representing him, says he was not involved in the actor's death.

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Vallelonga is the son of the late actor Tony Lip, whose real name was Frank Vallelonga. The 2018 movie Green Book recounts how Lip, in real life, drove Black pianist Don Shirley around the South in the early 1960s. In the film, Frank Vallelonga Jr. portrayed his own uncle, Rudy Vallelonga. The screenplay was co-written by Frank Jr.'s brother Nick, who shared an Oscar for best original screenplay. The film itself won the best-picture award. Vallelonga Jr. also appeared in the independent film The Birthday Cake and on the TV series The Neighborhood, per Variety. (More Bronx stories.)

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