NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bill Cosby’s daughter, Ensa Cosby, who came to her father’s defense last year against accusations that he had sexually assaulted numerous women over the years, has died at age 44 from a chronic kidney ailment, a family spokesman said on Monday.
Ensa Cosby, the second-youngest of the entertainer’s five children and the third of his four daughters, “recently died from renal disease,” according to the spokesman, Andrew Wyatt. But he declined to give further details about the circumstances of her death.
“The Cosby family thanks many people for their prayers for their beloved and beautiful Ensa,” he said in a statement.
The celebrity news website TMZ.com reported that Cosby’s daughter died on Friday night in Massachusetts.
The elder Cosby, best known for his television role as the wise, witty dad on the long-running situation comedy “The Cosby Show,” lost his only son, Ennis, to gun violence more than a decade ago.
Ensa Cosby made headlines in May 2017 when she released a statement with her older sister, Erinn, on the popular radio show, “The Breakfast Club,” proclaiming their father’s innocence against the multiple rape allegations lodged against him as he was about to go on trial.
“The accusations against my father have been one-sided since the beginning,” Ensa said in an audio statement aired during the morning show. “I strongly believe my father is innocent of the crimes alleged against him and I believe that racism has played a big role in all aspects of this scandal.”
“My father has been publicly lynched in the media,” she added.
Cosby, 80, is scheduled to appear in a Pennsylvania court next week for a hearing on pretrial motions ahead of his scheduled retrial on April 2. He faces criminal charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted a former administrator of the women’s basketball team at his alma mater, Temple University, in 2004.
His first trial ended in a hung jury. Cosby has denied all wrongdoing, saying that any sexual encounters with his accusers were consensual.
Last month, he appeared at a Philadelphia nightclub to perform his first stand-up comedy gig since 2015, joking about his loss of eyesight. The show drew blistering criticism on social media.
Cosby’s son, Ennis, an educator who had been pursuing a doctoral degree at Columbia University, was shot to death in 1997 by a young Ukrainian immigrant in a botched robbery attempt after the entertainer’s son stopped by the side of a road just off a Los Angeles freeway to change a flat tire. He was 27 at the time.
Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis