Mark Salling has died in an apparent suicide weeks before being sentenced to prison for possession of child pornography. He was 35.
“I can confirm that Mark Salling passed away early this morning. Mark was a gentle and loving person, a person of great creativity, who was doing his best to atone for some serious mistakes and errors of judgment,” his attorney Michael Proctor tells PEOPLE. “He is survived by his mother and father, and his brother. The Salling family appreciates the support they have been receiving and asks for their privacy to be respected.”
“He was found hanging from a tree in the area of the Los Angeles River in Sunland,” Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter tells PEOPLE. Salling was pronounced dead at the scene at 9 a.m. Tuesday and his body is at the coroner’s office. According to Winter, his relatives have been notified of the death and an autopsy is scheduled for the next few days.
An LAPD PIO told PEOPLE that officers responded to a death investigation at the 11900 block of Big Tujunga Cyn Road Tuesday morning at 8:50 a.m. but could not identify Salling.
The Glee star pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography involving a prepubescent minor Oct. 4, 2017. After striking a plea deal in December, he was due to be sentenced in March and expected to serve four to seven years in prison.
“Mark is focused on accepting responsibility and attempting to atone for his conduct,” Proctor said in a statement to PEOPLE at the time.
Federal investigators say they found more than 25,000 images and 600 videos depicting child pornography on computers and thumb drives that belonged to Salling. The content depicted children as young as 3 years old being abused, according to court documents.
Salling had to register as a sex offender and enter a treatment program; have no verbal or electronic contact with anyone under the age of 18; stay 100 feet away from schools, parks, public swimming pools, youth centers, playgrounds and arcades; and pay $50,000 in restitution to each victim, according to the documents.
Salling was arrested in December 2015 after investigators said the laptop, a hard drive, and a USB flash drive seized from his residence allegedly contained thousands of images and videos depicting child pornography. (His former girlfriend called police, according to the court documents.) In May 2016, he was named in a two-count indictment alleging he received porn involving young girls. But the trial was delayed that June as he sought new legal representation.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Salling played jock Noah “Puck” Puckerman on the hit Fox show Glee from 2009-15. His other credits include a guest-role in Walker, Texas Ranger in 1999 and the TV Movie Rocky Road in 2014.
If you or someone you know is showing warning signs of suicide, consider contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK, texting the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or seeking help from a professional.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).