Montreal

Death of Montreal model and artist known as Zombie Boy ruled accidental

Rick Genest, known as Zombie Boy, fell off a balcony in Montreal's Plateau–Mont-Royal borough last August, according to a coroner's report released Monday. There had been speculation his death was a suicide.

Rick Genest rose to fame after appearing in a Lady Gaga music video

Rick Genest's body art attracted fashion designers, and he modelled at high-end shows in Paris and Berlin. (Tristan Fewings/Getty)

The death of Montreal model and artist Rick Genest, also known as Zombie Boy, was an accident, not a suicide, according to a coroner's report released Monday.

Genest fell off a third-floor balcony in Montreal's Plateau–Mont-Royal borough on the afternoon of Aug. 1, 2018, the report said. 

Coroner Mélissa Gagnon concluded he died of head trauma resulting from the fall. He was 32. 

There had initially been speculation Genest's death was a suicide. 

In her report, Gagnon notes Genest had a history of mental health problems and had sought treatment. 

But he was "happy in the weeks preceding his death" and had recently gotten engaged.

"His friends also stated that he was highly motivated by his new artistic projects."

The report said a fall from the balcony was the most "likely scenario," given that he was highly intoxicated.

A toxicological analysis found he had a blood alcohol level three times the legal driving limit. He had a habit of sitting on the railing when he went outside for a cigarette, family members told the coroner.

"After analysis, given that the investigation did not reveal a clear and unequivocal intention to end his life on Mr. Genest's part, I cannot state that the death was a suicide," Gagnon wrote in her report.

Rise to fame with Lady Gaga

Genest, who was a squeegee kid as a youth in Montreal, came to the public's attention after tattooing his body from head to toe, including images of a skull and brain on his head.

He set a Guinness World Record, which has since been surpassed, for most insect tattoos (176) and another for most human bone tattoos (139).

His body art attracted fashion designers, and he modelled at high-end shows in Paris and Berlin. In 2011, he appeared in Lady Gaga's music video for the song Born This Way.

Lady Gaga originally referred to Genest's death as a suicide and then later apologized, saying she did not mean to draw an "unjust conclusion."

"The art we made was sacred to me and I was emotional, he was an incredible artist and his art and heart will live on," she wrote on Twitter last year.

Friends relieved

On Monday, Sam Watts, the head of Welcome Hall Mission, a Montreal community organization, recalled Genest's contributions as a volunteer after, years earlier, using their services.

In 2018, Genest worked with the mission on a campaign to raise awareness about the challenges facing youth on the streets.

"He wanted to use his fame and his notoriety to bring attention to the cause of youth homelessness," Watts said.

"He was a fascinating individual. You had this exterior that looked a certain way but it didn't reflect the interior and also the caring he had for other young people."

Rick Genest's friend, Karim Leduc, right, and Micah Genest, his brother, attended the release of the coroner's report Monday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Karim Leduc, Genest's friend and former manager, said he will be remembered as a unique artist and poet, and a generous person.

He said it was a "relief to finally have this chapter come to a close publicly," when it had long been clear to those closest to him that Genest's death was an accident.

"For us to be able to move on and to know that the world has the same side of the story as we have is a relief," he said.

With files from Jaela Bernstien

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