What Really Happened To Lisa Robin Kelly

For the most part, the cast of That '70s Show has enjoyed an impressively high post-sitcom success rate. Topher Grace, Danny Masterson, Laura Prepon, Wilmer Valderrama, Mila Kunis, and Ashton Kutcher all continue to appear in movies and on television, the latter two at superstar levels. It's the dream scenario of Hollywood support systems—and that's what makes their co-star Lisa Robin Kelly's downward spiral into drugs, alcohol, and an ultimately death even more disheartening.


Lisa Robin Kelly was born on March 5, 1970 in Southington, Connecticut and moved to Sylvania, Ohio before she started high school. Family and friends remember her childhood as being a happy one. She was a cheerleader and seemed close to her parents. Even after moving out to California to pursue her acting career, she traveled back east every Christmas to spend the holiday with her family.


In 1994, things started happening in Kelly's career. She booked small one-episode roles in Silk Stalkings, Days of Our Lives, and Murphy Brown, among others, before landing meatier parts in Married with Children and Poltergeist: The Legacy, a short-lived television series based on the movie franchise. In an episode of X-Files that also featured a young Ryan Reynolds, she played a high school student who acquires dangerous telekinetic powers after a rare aligning of the planets.

In 1998, Kelly got her big break with the role of Laurie Forman on That '70s Show, which led to all kinds of things: the movie Jawbreaker, the TV series Charmed, and multiple made-for-TV movies. With a hit sitcom and plenty of offers coming in, she seemed to be living the Hollywood dream.

Turning point

The first red flag for Kelly's substance abuse problems went up in 2001, when she went from being a series regular on That '70s Show to being written out completely by the end of season three. Rumors hinted her departure was due to a drug problem, but Kelly later said it was because of her drinking. She patched things up with the show's producers temporarily when Laurie returned in season five; unfortunately, things went south again by season six, and Kelly was replaced in the role altogether by MADtv alum Christina Moore in 2003.

After leaving That '70s Show, Kelly rarely worked again. In an interview that with ABC News in 2012, she admitted she burned her bridges on the series, and claimed her drinking problem was the result of a failed pregnancy.

Legal problems

In 2010, police in North Carolina arrested Kelly for driving under the influence. She pled guilty, paid a fine, and served 12 months of unsupervised probation. That seemed to put her on the straight and narrow for a while, but in March 2012, she was arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of felony spousal abuse. Her roommate/ex-boyfriend John Michas claimed she'd beaten him up. She was released on a $50,000 bond.

Speaking with ABC News, Kelly said the claims against her were "all a bunch of made up stuff" and that she'd been sober for months. (Her mug shot would imply otherwise.) She also vowed that the adversity had only made her stronger and her career would be making a comeback. However, by November of that year, 42-year-old Kelly had married 61-year-old Robert Joseph Gilliam—and both were arrested in North Carolina after police responded to a disturbance call at their home. Both were charged with assaulting one another, and Kelly later filed for divorce, got a restraining order against Gilliam, and tweeted on June 23, 2013: "I am having a great day............,free at last ,free at last. LMFAO. I AM OFFICIALLY DONE WITH MY MARRIAGE."

The sad irony of that tweet is that she'd been arrested the night before on suspicion of a DUI. Law enforcement officials responded to a call about a car parked on the freeway and blocking a lane of traffic, and found Kelly still inside the vehicle.


Roughly two months after her 2013 DUI arrest, Kelly checked into the Pax Rehab House in Altadena, California. A few days later, she died in her sleep on August 15, 2013, at the age of 43. The cause of death wasn't immediately apparent, but police didn't expect foul play. Months later, the Los Angeles coroner's office released a statement saying Kelly's death was the result of an accidental unspecified oral "multiple drug intoxication."

Her estranged husband, Gilliam, blamed her relapse on her boyfriend at the time, claiming that in the two weeks leading up to her death, "she called me 22 times to get away from him." The boyfriend retorted that Kelly's problem was due to years of physical and emotional abuse from Gilliam. We'll never really know the full story, but the end result is the same: a life once filled with potential, ended far too soon.

Wrongful death suit

Following Kelly's mysterious death at Pax House, her estranged husband, Robert Gilliam, filed a wrongful death suit against the center and its owners, James and Marcia Burnett, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In the suit, filed on July 10, 2014, Gilliam alleged that Pax House was "improperly trained to care for patients such as his wife," which resulted in negligence.

As a result, Gilliam sought "unspecified damages" due to "the loss of love, affection, society, comfort, support...expectations of future support and counseling, companionship, solace and mental support, as well as other benefits and assistance" from his late wife. In September 2017, Westside Today reported that Gilliam's lawyer confirmed he'd reached a settlement with Pax House, although he declined to disclose the terms.