May 11, 2015 12:00 PM


Sawyer Sweeten

Sawyer Sweeten and his identical twin brother, Sullivan, were known as Geoffrey and Michael Barone throughout nine seasons of the hit CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, but at home in their big blended family of 11 kids, they were simply “the Bubs.” “They leveled each other out,” says their uncle Trey Sullivan. “Sawyer was the one with a heart of toughness and love all mixed together. I remember thinking, ‘If I have twins like this someday, I’d be on top of the world.'”

Tragically, Sawyer did not share the sense of triumph. On April 23 the 19-year-old shot and killed himself while visiting relatives in Texas, leaving his family and friends reeling. “He was a happy, beautiful being,” Sawyer’s mother, Elizabeth, and stepfather, Jerry Gini, told People in a statement. “But in the last week of his life, we saw something happen. It was so rapid in progression that we were caught off guard.”

A “strong and selfless friend,” as his sister and Raymond costar Madylin, 23, describes him, he lived a quiet life outside Hollywood after the show ended in 2005. Sawyer’s manager Dino May says his lifelong client was happy to stay “on hiatus.” Instead, his parents say, the animal lover had dreams of becoming a veterinarian and had recently bought a house with Sullivan in California, where the twins had lived since the family moved from Texas in 1995. “[Depression] is not something we saw Sawyer struggle with,” Jerry says. “He was always happy and smiling. He was a happy kid.” Now his loved ones are left wondering how he could have fallen so far so fast. “Sawyer was such a completely amazing boy, which makes what has happened so much more confusing to us as a family,” says Elizabeth. Add Sawyer’s father, Tim, and stepmother, Nina: “He was the most gentle, loving person who always put others’ needs before his own. We cannot believe our son is gone.”

A Mom’s Sad Goodbye

To those who knew him best, Sawyer was a fun-loving teen who adored his family. “My husband and I spoke to or saw Sawyer daily,” his mom, Elizabeth Gini, told PEOPLE in a statement along with her husband, Jerry. “There was not one time that he did not greet us, or really any- one, without a hug. He never said goodbye without an ‘I love you.’ He was incredibly intelligent and had an amazing heart. We are grateful that his beautiful personality was shared with so many through his years on television. But to us, he was just our hilarious and sweet son.”

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