Epstein died of complications due to drug use; but not an overdose as has been reported. Investigators were told Epstein had been using heroin. Howie was driven to St. Vincent Hospital by his girlfriend, who described him as "under distress."
Epstein was taking antibiotics for an illness, and he had recently suffered from flu, stomach problems and an abscess on his leg, friends said.
"Apparently he passed out in the bathroom, and (his girlfriend) drove him to the hospital," Madrid said.
He died on February 23, 2003 at the age of 47. Reportedly he was extremely despondent over the death of his 16 year-old German Shepherd a few days earlier. In recent interviews, Tom Petty admitted that Epstein's behavior had become unpredictable: "He was just degenerating on us to the point where we thought keeping Howie in the band was actually doing him more harm than getting rid of him. His personal problems were vast and serious." He was interred at Second Home Cemetery in Greenfield, WI.
also its fascinating and must be a unique case that ron blair who was the original heartbreakers bassist from 1976 to 1982 replaced his replacement- howie epstein- in 2002 when the heartbreakers felt he could no longer continue..blair is the guy who is currently their bassist.... you read alot of crap about how the heartbreakers are not the same without epstein and the original drummer...but blair IS the original bassist......