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Jaleel White ('Steve Urkel') Is Dead!

Bogus news story circulating via email claims actor Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel on the TV show 'Family Matters,' is dead by suicide

Description: Email hoax
Circulating since: Dec 2005
Status: False

Email example contributed by Clara C., June 2, 2006:

Subject: FW: Jaleel White (Steve Urkel)

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) --

Jaleel White, who played 'nerdy ' neighbor Steve Urkel on "Family Matters" found dead Monday. He was 29 years old.

White was pronounced dead on arrival after admission to an LA hospital early Monday morning. The death is being investigated as a suicide.

Born Jaleel Ahmad White, he began his career at the age of three acting in television commercials, before landing guest spots on shows such as "The Jeffersons" and "Mr. Belvedere." It was in 1989 that White landed the role that would make him famous, playing wacky neighbor 'Steve Urkel' on the ABC program "Family Matters."

Following the cancellation of "Family Matters" in 1997, friends claim White became obsessed with the character, and grew despondent, despite further successes as star and producer of the UPN sitcom "Grownups", and as a writer for NBA.com Neighbor and friend, Bradley Spencer alerted police after hearing what he described as "a loud bang" coming from White's Los Angeles apartment.

Authorities state that upon entering the home they discovered a young African-American male with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Also found was a note, which read simply "Did I do that?", a popular catchphrase from the show.

"Jaleel was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a great comedic actor," said William Bickley, who created the series, and Thomas L. Miller, one of the executive producers, in a joint statement.

"We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him. He'll be missed and remembered every day by his many, many friends," they said.

Actress Kellie Williams -- Laura Winslow on the series -- described White as a consummate professional actor. "Everyone adored him," she said.

"We have all lost a dear, dear brother," said Reginald VelJohnson, who played Carl Winslow. White, an only child, is survived by "cousins, aunts, uncles, and wonderful friends," Bickley said.

Comments: This bogus "news story" credited to AP began making the email rounds on June 2, 2006. No such article was published by the Associated Press or any other legitimate media outlet.

Though its exact origin has yet to be determined, an early version was posted on the Museum of Hoaxes message board on December 20, 2005.

One obvious clue that it's a prank is this purported quote -- actually a popular catchphrase from "Family Matters" -- from White's suicide note: "Did I do that?"

The answer is no.

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Sources and further reading:

TV BITS: Urkel Lives!
EURWeb.com, 5 June 2006

Jaleel White Is NOT Dead!
TVSquad.com, 3 June 2006

Is This Jaleel White?
Museum of Hoaxes message board, 20 December 2005

Last updated: 06/05/06

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