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‘American Idol’ tragedies: C.J. Harris’ death marks painful history for reality competition show

The recent death of singer C.J. Harris shocked the “American Idol” community as another musician’s hopes and dreams of making it big were now gone forever.

Harris died on Sunday, Jan. 15 in Jasper, Alabama at the age of 31. 

The musician’s cause of death has not been immediately disclosed.

An “American Idol” spokesperson confirmed his death to Fox News Digital, and the “Idol” team shared heartfelt condolences on Instagram. 

C.J. HARRIS, FORMER ‘AMERICAN IDOL’ CONTESTANT, DEAD AT 31

“C.J. Harris was an incredible talent, and the news of his passing deeply saddens us,” they wrote. “He will be truly missed.”

Harris competed on the 13th season of the reality television program and finished in sixth place. Caleb Johnson went on to win the series, which aired in 2014.

Following his “Idol” debut, Harris released his debut single, “In Love,” in 2019.

‘AMERICAN IDOL’ JUDGES HONOR WILLIE SPENCE AS 911 CALLS DETAIL THE LATE SINGER’S HORRIFIC CAR CRASH

In October 2022, Willie Spence was killed in a car collision at the age of 23.

Spence was the runner-up on season 19, which premiered in February 2021 and country singer Chayce Beckham was crowned the winner. 

Willie died following a car crash in Jasper, Tennessee. 

His 2019 Jeep Cherokee collided with the back of a tractor-trailer after he veered off the highway, and he was declared dead on arrival, Lt. Bobby Clevenger told Fox News Digital at the time.

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“The medical examiner was called from the scene,” he said.

“Idol” judge Katy Perry honored Spence shortly after his death. “I love you Willie … purest soul. Sing with the angels my darling,” she wrote.

“We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence,” the show shared in a statement. “He was a true talent who lit up every room he entered and will be deeply missed. We send our condolences to his loved ones.”

Judge Luke Bryan agreed and tweeted,” Willie really did light up every room he walked into. He could change the mood instantly when he started singing. He will be truly missed.”

Prior to Spence’s death, Nikki McKibbin was the most recent “American Idol” contestant who lost her life after the show. She died from a brain aneurysm in November 2020 at the age of 42.

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Her husband, Craig Sadler, confirmed her death on Facebook, and shared that McKibbin had been kept on life support so that her organs could be harvested to donate to others.

“Many of you already know something is wrong. The love of my life Nikki Sadler suffered an aneurysm on Wednesday. She would already be gone, but she’s an organ donor and has been kept on life support to make that possible,” he wrote on social media. “That shouldn’t be a surprise to us. Even at the end she is still giving.”

McKibbin appeared on the first season of “Idol,” and came in third place behind Justin Guarini and winner Kelly Clarkson.

She had a successful run as a rock singer and appeared on a slew of reality shows, including “Fear Factor” and “Battle of the Network Reality Stars.” 

McKibbin also faced some personal demons and joined “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” in 2008 to receive treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

In 2014, she returned to “Idol” in a unique way – to support her son, Tristen Cole Lanley, who made it all the way to the Hollywood round of auditions.

Michael Johns, a singer who appeared on season seven in 2008, died in August 2014 at the age of 35. 

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Johns, who was born in Australia, reportedly died of dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition which restricted blood flow to his body and caused his heart to enlarge.

“I just heard the very sad news that Michael Johns has passed away. A truly great guy. Rest in peace Michael,” judge Simon Cowell tweeted at the time.

Leah LaBelle and her husband, ex-NBA player Rasual Butler, were killed in a solo car crash in Southern California in 2018. She was 31.

LaBelle appeared on the third season of “Idol” in 2004 and finished in 12th place, competing against Fantasia Barrino, Diana DeGarmo and Jennifer Hudson.

Haley Smith died in 2019 after being involved in a solo motorcycle accident in Maine. The 26-year-old singer was pronounced dead at the scene.

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Smith stunned judges in 2012 when she belted out Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good” during her season 11 audition in Colorado. 

Judge Steven Tyler told Smith it was an honor to hear her sing since she seemed to have been plucked right out of his “era” with her look and sound.

Rickey E. Smith Jr., who competed on season two, also died in a car collision.

The musician was killed in a multi-vehicle, wrong-way crash in Oklahoma City in 2016. He was 36.

Joanne Borgella lost her battle with endometrial cancer in 2017 at the age of 32.

“At an early age, Joanne made a choice to serve and trust the Lord; and since her diagnosis over a year ago, Joanne made a choice to also be a fighter and share her journey with the world,” her family shared on social media at the time.

Borgella competed on season seven in 2008, and made it into the top 12 girls category.

Her family added, “Her faith, courage and strength were unshaken throughout every obstacle she encountered. Although our family is suffering with this great loss, we find comfort in the closeness Joanne shared with the Lord. We know her spirit still shines and will continue to live on in heaven.”

Marque “Tate” Lynch, who was a former “Mickey Mouse Club” Mousketeer and appeared on season 3 of “American Idol,” died in 2015 from “acute and chronic alcoholism,” a public information officer confirmed to People magazine at the time. He was 34.

Other “Idol” singers who have passed away include Alexis Cohen, Jessika Baier and Paula Goodspeed.

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