Hilary Duff penned a heartfelt tribute Saturday to ex-boyfriend Aaron Carter, who was found dead this weekend at his home in Lancaster, California. He was 34.
The Lizzie McGuire star and the I Want Candy singer dated on and off in the early 2000s when they were both teenagers at the height of their fame. According to E! News, the former child stars were romantically linked for about three years before officially calling it quits.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Saturday that authorities were investigating the circumstances surrounding Carter's death after receiving a call from a house sitter who found him unresponsive in a bathtub. Carter had been vocal about his struggles with substance use, as well as various mental health conditions — including personality disorder, schizophrenia, acute anxiety and manic depression.
"For Aaron — I'm deeply sorry that life was so hard for you and that you had to struggle in-front of the whole world," Duff, 35, wrote in a statement posted on Instagram. "You had a charm that was absolutely effervescent ... boy did my teenage self love you deeply."
In addition to dating Duff, the late musician and TV personality also guest-starred in a famous episode of her hit sitcom, Lizzie McGuire. The beloved episode — which premiered on Disney Channel in March 2001 — sees Lizzie (Duff) and her friends sneak onto the set of Carter's holiday music video, where the teen heroine and the rising pop star share a kiss under the mistletoe.
"Sending love to your family at this time," Duff continued in her statement. "Rest easy."
Duff was among several celebrities who mourned Carter's death this weekend on social media. Melissa Joan Hart, who worked with Carter on an episode of her show, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, wrote on Instagram, "Sending love to the family and friends and fans of #AaronCarter. Rest In Peace!"
On Twitter, songwriter Diane Warren wrote: "Fame at a young age is often more a curse than a blessing and Surviving it is not easy. RIP Aaron Carter."
Carter was also honoured by his twin sister, Angel Conrad, and older brother Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. In 1997, Aaron Carter opened for the Backstreet Boys on tour, and his death drew condolences from other boy bands of the era, such as 'N SYNC and New Kids on the Block.
"We are saddened by the news of the sudden passing of Aaron Carter today," 'N Sync tweeted. "Our hearts go out to his family, friends and fans during this difficult time. Rest In Peace Aaron."
"We are shocked and saddened about the sudden passing of Aaron Carter," New Kids on the Block tweeted. "Sending prayers to the Carter family. Rest in peace, Aaron." – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service