MATTHEWS: On the complicated life and death of actress Anne Heche

FILE - Anne Heche arrives at the premiere of "The Tender Bar" on Dec. 12, 2021, at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. Heche was in the hospital Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, following an accident in which her car smashed into a house and flames erupted, a representative for the actor told People magazine. The representative, who was not identified, told the magazine that Heche was in stable condition a day after Friday's accident. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Actress Anne Heche, 53, was declared brain dead on Friday, August 12th, one week after she crashed her Mini Cooper into a home after driving down a road in Los Angeles at a high rate of speed. 

Shortly after the crash, Heche’s car exploded into flames. She suffered a “severe anoxic brain injury,” “significant pulmonary injury” and severe burns on her body, and according to various news reports, she was in a coma for most of her time in the hospital, being kept on life support for two days after she was declared brain dead while doctors determined if any of her organs could be donated. 

Heche is survived by two sons, Homer and Atlas. 

In the days leading up to her death including immediately after the car crash, videos surfaced of Heche, one where she had allegedly hit a garage at an apartment complex and was urged to get out of her vehicle but didn’t. Instead, she appeared to step on the gas, and shortly after, another video showed her barreling down a residential neighborhood road. In the video clip, you hear but don’t see the car hitting the house. 

Early reports indicated that Heche may have been intoxicated and possibly on narcotics, though the investigation into that aspect of the crash is still ongoing. 

As a result of that information, social media platforms Facebook and Twitter lit up with condemnations of Heche, with many choosing to focus on the woman, Lynne Mishele, who was said to have narrowly escaped the fire with her two dogs before the home she was renting was destroyed by the car crash. 

Though Heche had an extensive film and TV career, many will understandably remember her most for the unfortunate actions that preceded her death. What is not widely known about Heche, however, was her complicated life. 

In a book she wrote about her life in 2001, Heche alleged her father repeatedly sexually abused her as an infant and as a child, which she said led to mental health challenges she’d faced her whole life. 

Three months after she lost her father to HIV/AIDS (when he was 45 and she was 13), Heche also lost her brother in what authorities said at the time was a car accident but which Heche believed was a suicide. Heche also lost two other siblings, one sister to brain cancer and another sister in infancy as the result of a heart defect. Heche was also estranged from her mother and her remaining sibling, both of who have denied the allegations Heche made about her father’s alleged abuse. 

In the late 1990s, Heche was in a three-year relationship with comedian Ellen DeGeneres, a relationship which Heche said led to her being “blackballed” for roughly a decade in Hollywood, which insiders say was less accepting of such relationships at the time. Heche would later claim that she felt DeGeneres had had a hand in her blackballing since it was Heche who decided to end their relationship. 

In any event, with Heche now gone her legacy will be debated in the months and years to come. But one thing is for certain, her life was about a lot more than the car crash that ultimately took her life.  People who rush to judge her should keep all of this in mind, and also consider whether someone’s life should ultimately be judged by the one time they fell from grace. I’m of the general mindset, with few exceptions, that they shouldn’t be. 

As for Lynne Mishele, the owners of the home she was renting have started a GoFundMe on her behalf, which as of this writing has raised nearly $175,000. Anyone interested in donating should search “Help Lynne Mishele after Devastating Fire Loss” on GoFundMe, which should take you to the donation page. 

North Carolina native Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a media analyst and regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.