Charlie Dean’s cause of death was discovered four months after her death. The New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said the South African actress died of bacterial sepsis, a complication caused by “remote blunt force trauma to her torso” from “asplenia” (absence of the spleen).
A spokesperson for the coroner’s office told the outlet that Dean contracted sepsis with Capnocytophaga bacteria on Dec. 21. Capnocytophaga is transmitted to humans through bites, scratches, foxes, or other close contact with animals such as dogs and cats CDC.
People with autoimmune problems and those without a spleen are particularly susceptible to these infections. Black Lightning Star’s death was ruled an accident, but it is unclear whether an animal bite or lick caused her infection. The medical examiner has not released her full autopsy.
Dean died on August 29 in New York City at the age of 32. At the time, a representative for the actress confirmed to NBC News that she had died of an “unexpected sudden illness,” but no other details were provided.
Her brother Alex Jacobs previously told Rolling Stone that Dean was involved in a “really bad car accident” in 2009, after which doctors removed her spleen. He also said that his sister suffered broken ribs and a broken back in the accident.
“The spleen is involved in fighting infections. And that may have something to do with what happened,” Jacobs said on Aug. 31. “The reason she probably couldn’t fight was that her spleen wasn’t there. It was off,” Jacobs said, also describing her sister’s last day.
Dean began experiencing “minor” symptoms before asking her to take her fiancé, Luke Volker, to the emergency room. She died a few hours later. Her brother told the outlet, “It literally happened over the course of a day.
Headaches, falling asleep, waking up her boyfriend, and saying please take me to the hospital.”