Working on ABC’s Celebrity Wife Swap reality show was enough to make Jeremy London and his actress wife, Juliet Reeves London, fast friends with the conspicuously wealthy couple David and Jackie Siegel.
So when the billionaire stars of the documentary Queen of Versailles suffered an unthinkable loss with the tragic and untimely death of their 18-year-old daughter, Victoria (known to friends as Rikki), on Saturday, the Londons were heartbroken – and shocked.
“There were literally no signs” Victoria was struggling with prescription drugs, Jeremy, 42, told PEOPLE Tuesday. “We got to know Rikki, and there were no signs other than she was an angsty teen [it didn’t seem any] different than what any other teenager is going through.”
Victoria, according to Siegel family spokesperson Michael Marder, had a history of seizures, was prescribed medication for the condition, and grew dependent on them. She recently “voluntarily underwent rehabilitation and was working hard to address this problem,” he said in a statement Monday. An autopsy has been performed, but the cause of death has not yet been determined.
Juliet says talk that Victoria’s death might have been suicide makes little sense to her.
“I don’t believe it was intentional; there are rumors going around it might have been,” she says, while Jeremy, 42, who’s fought his own battle with addiction (he got sober in 2009), adds, “I think she’s been dealing with these demons for awhile. Oftentimes people get out of rehab and they fall back into the same patterns and their body isn’t prepared for it.
“There was certainly no telltale signs anyone was suicidal or anything like that.”
Says Juliet, “Jackie Siegel is a very loving mother and she was very, very close to Rikki. She is very heartbroken right now.”
Victoria’s father is absolutely distraught, adds Jeremy. “She was his first-born with Jackie David is crushed. I’m sure he’s kicking himself a lot. But there’s nobody to blame for this thing. We know all too well that stuff happens.”
Any public perceptions that Jackie and David Siegel are absentee parents (who were shown in the documentary to have pets roaming the home and defecating indoors) are misguided, say the Londons, who spent more than a week in the couple’s home and who have since visited them in their Orlando-area home (and plan to visit again soon).
“Things get amplified for TV,” Juliet says, explaining that it was Victoria’s dedication to animals that created still more chaos in the home. “One of her things was animal rescue. She liked to bring animals home – one that had seizures, one that had cancer – and she’d rescue these animals and bring them home. Their house was chaotic and warm. Their house was not filthy. There was not poop anywhere. The documentary was amplified that way.”
Explains Jeremy, “Jackie and David are extremely busy people. She travels a lot; it comes with that lifestyle. I think they have a whole different world they have to navigate in. When we visited, we saw it’s unbelievable how chaotic it is. They’re always doing something; they’ve got big lives. Jackie has the desire to have all her kids with her. She takes them with her when she travels.
“You can’t say they weren’t trying to help. Victoria was in rehab. They tried,” he adds. “Speaking as someone that was an addict six years ago – I went to rehab in 2009 because of painkillers – I understand it’s nothing any one person can control besides the one that’s doing that to themselves. There’s no way to really know what’s going on inside somebody else’s mind.”
And yet sadly, Jeremy says, “We know what kind of people they are. They’re probably kicking themselves.”
Juliet, shown on Wife Swap to be a down-to-earth mother raising her and Jeremy’s kids on an Oklahoma ranch, admits, “Our life is drastically different. We’re getting [feedback from viewers] that people think we’re good parents – but I think [the Siegels] are too.
“I saw Jackie really trying to connect with Victoria several times. We went to lunch one day, there were a lot of people in their social circle in Orlando. Jackie went to call Rikki several times to come to lunch. Finally she did show up, and Jackie wanted her to sit next to her, but Rikki was at that age. I remember going through that.”
Adds the actress, “I pay close attention to kids and what they’re going through. They’re important to me and I did see Jackie really trying with her. I didn’t see warning signs she had a drug problem.”
Those who knew Victoria describe a young woman who wasn’t interested in the trappings of fame or wealth. One friend who knew the teen well told PEOPLE, “she was one of nicest most caring people I’ve met. She thrives off others’ happiness. I loved her. The money didn’t faze her. She hated the money.”
Juliet, who moved into the family’s Florida mansion with all eight children, said she had one-on-one talks with Rikki about her future and her dreams.
“We had a discussion concerning the standards women are held to these days, and she was [kind of] heir to the throne. As a woman she was held to a Paris Hilton-type standard, and she was gorgeous to me, but she had respect for herself. I was completely shocked because of what a unique and awesome individual she was. She wasn’t trying to fit into that mold. I’m proud of her for being herself.”
One thing she didn’t seem to want was a TV career with her parents. Juliet, who broke down more than once while remembering Victoria, said, “You could tell she didn t want to be on the show. She was at the age where maybe it wasn’t cool to her.”
“When I was 18, I probably would’ve been mortified! She was so cool. She could be reserved but she was warm to me and I always got a hug and a smile. She really was somebody that had a very bright future.”
Her siblings, say the Londons, will be suffering with the loss of their beloved sister.
“She was really a remarkable girl,” Juliet recalls. “The twins, who are 8, Jacqueline and Jordan, admired their sister so much. You could see when she was around, they were always hugging her. And seeing her, she was so attentive to them. I can’t imagine how they’re feeling.”
Those addicted to prescription drugs, says Jeremy, are often experts at hiding it, at least early on. “I think there’s an epidemic of prescription drug use in this country that seriously needs to be addressed,” says the actor. “Doctors were all too willing to give me tons of them. I see that everywhere and it kills me.”
He says his problems got out of control: “My brain was chemically imbalanced and I became a lunatic.” But now he’s found his balance.
He adds, “We just hope and pray they will use this tragedy to jell the family rather than create a greater divide. We’re so sad for our friends. How do you ever make sense of any of it?”