Who died in “Little People, Big World”?

April 18, 2024
10 mins read

The long-running reality television series, “Little People Big World,” captured the hearts of the public, as it featured the Roloffs living on their 34-acre pumpkin farm in Portland, Oregon. Matt and Amy Roloff along with one of their sons have dwarfism, and viewers shared in their joy and found inspiration in them as they overcame life’s challenges. Rumors that the family suffered a tragic loss spread throughout social media, and fans have been wondering if there was some truth to it, or if it was just some gossip fodder.

Get to know the Roloff family

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Matthew James “Matt” Roloff was born in 1961 with a condition called diastrophic dysplasia, which affects bone and cartilage development resulting in having short legs and arms along with joint problems, thus restricting mobility. He said, ‘Our heads are well proportioned, but we all have funny-looking hands and legs that aren’t straight…my hips and my knees and my fingers don’t work properly.’ He underwent several operations as a child to correct misaligned joints and other deformities. 

Amy Jo Knight was also born in the early 1960s with a genetic disorder called achondroplasia, which was characterized by having a normal-length torso with short arms and legs. She had a tough time growing up, as she was hospitalized on a regular basis.

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The two met in 1987 at a convention of a non-profit organization called Little People of America (LPA) for individuals with dwarfism. It didn’t take them long to fall for each other, despite being polar opposites – he was a risk-taker and a dreamer while she was practical and a planner. They were married in September of that same year.

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On having kids and raising them

Amy’s biggest dream had always been to become a mom, and she was overjoyed when they were blessed with four children: Zach and Jeremy (twins), Molly, and Jacob – Zach has dwarfism while the rest are of average size. The couple received some flak for wanting to have kids that had a good chance of having the same genetic condition as them, but it was not a cause for concern as Matt said, ‘We really do celebrate the fact that we’re different. I wouldn’t change it for anything…The idea of bringing in a little person to us was very, very exciting.’ Amy fully intended to become the best parent that she could be, and raise her children the way she was brought up. 

Matt and Amy both have parents and siblings who are of average size, so they knew what it was like growing up somewhat differently in their own homes. He said that going through life as a little person was challenging, and it taught him to become resilient. When it comes to raising their children, he believed in giving them attention ‘where it’s needed, when it’s needed’ regardless of height. It meant that they didn’t coddle Zach or put all their focus on him because of his dwarfism. In parenting kids taller than him, Matt made sure he taught them to be respectful when they were still smaller than him, so that it would be ingrained in them.

About the show

How did “Little People, Big World” come about?

The depiction of people with dwarfism resonated well with viewers when they had their first glimpse into the lives of the Roloff family in the 2005 TV movie “Little People Big Dreams.” Executive producer Gay Rosenthal then thought it best to launch the reality TV series, “Little People Big World,” the following year – ‘This is without a doubt the most in-depth look at dwarfism,’ Matt said, as cameras followed his family going about their day, capturing ordinary experiences such as camping, shopping, and the kids playing soccer. Unlike other docuseries or reality shows, theirs was not overly dramatic or controversial. Amy insisted, ‘I’m just a regular person who happens to be little.’ Still, people tuned in week after week as they wanted to see what life was like for a family such as theirs.

They agreed to do the show in the hopes that it would be of help to others who were in the same situation as them. Little people were often bullied, mocked, and discriminated against, although times were changing and the world has become much kinder to those who were different, as there are people and organizations that promoted diversity, cultivating tolerance and inclusivity for all. The show helped the public understand them better, and especially treat them the way they do an average-sized person.

Losing privacy

Filming a reality TV series meant that the cameras were on for most of the day, so that the production could chronicle their lives. Unlike Matt, who was quite excited about doing the show, Amy was worried about losing their privacy, as she said, ‘I consider the home a kind of the haven, the place where the kids can unwind and we can just be ourselves before we go out into that big bad world.’ 

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It took time to get used to having a camera crew and the production team inside their house, and around the farm. Although they didn’t show everything, the family kept it real. It wasn’t easy to act normally or be comfortable being filmed, and when one was overwhelmed by it all, or felt it was too much, Amy would ask the crew to leave or turn the camera off, saying ‘I think the family needs to regroup here and just get ahold of themselves.’ The producers understood that they were a real family, and would give them the time and space that they needed. She said that regardless of money, she was a mom whose priority was the well-being of her kids. Since there were guys in the crew, Amy insisted during the second year of filming that her daughter Molly’s bedroom was off-limits to them, unless they checked with her first. As time passed and they got to know the crew, filming became much easier, and they no longer minded or even noticed the cameras.

Being in a TV show has been good for their business, as people would flock to their farm for a tour, and enjoy the attractions that they were offering. The downside to being a reality star was that people always had an opinion on how they lived their lives, and claimed to know them inside and out. Some would even nitpick at things that they did. or focus on what they did that was deemed ‘wrong’. When the Roloffs received harsh criticisms, they would remind themselves to see the bigger picture – that they were helping society understand that being different is okay.

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What happened to the Roloff family?

Matt and Amy’s divorce

In June 2015, Matt and Amy filed for divorce after nearly three decades of marriage. Matt had moved to their guesthouse on the farm in 2013 around Thanksgiving, as they went through a trial separation, but it was just delaying the inevitable. He admitted that he never really felt at home in his own home, and that perhaps it was wrong that they stuck it out for years when they shouldn’t have. Clearly, he wanted out, and at one time he even said, ‘People say marriage is work, how much work can it possibly be? At what point is it too much work?’ This was not something that Amy wanted, but she admitted that for many years they had failed to learn how to live together. The couple did undergo marriage counseling but stopped when the counselor told them it was futile to continue when it became apparent that there was nothing more to be done to help resolve their issues.

Some weren’t surprised by this development, as the couple disagreed a lot which was captured on film. Matt said that things were not always the way they seemed on the screen. In his book, “Little Family, Big Values: Lessons in Love, Respect and Understanding for Families of Any Size,” he wrote that he and Amy differed in the way they view commitment; he believed that it was negotiable, but for Amy, it was sacred. He also said that her indecisiveness contributed to the failure of their marriage.

The divorce was finalized in May 2016. Amy went back to the dating scene, and hit it off with a real estate agent named Chris Malek. They dated for three years before becoming engaged in 2019, and then tied the knot in August 2021 at the Roloff Farm. She never thought she would fall for a guy of average height or that someone like him would be interested in her.

Matt went public with his relationship with Caryn Chandler in 2017, and although Amy was already happy and having the time of her life with Chris, she couldn’t help but feel bitter and hurt about Matt’s relationship. Apparently, Caryn had been an employee of Roloff Farm since 2011, and had worked her way up to become its manager in 2018. This led to speculation that the two were having an affair long before Matt and Amy separated. Looking back, Amy said that there were signs that something might be going on between the two but she chose not to assume the worst, or perhaps she was just in denial.

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For the sake of their kids and grandchildren, they remained cordial to one another, although Amy said, ‘I still struggle with the fact of being married to someone for so long and to now hang out with my ex- and his girlfriend, just too much history for me.’

Jacob’s molestation

The youngest child, Jacob, was around nine years old when “Little People Big World” premiered in 2006. When he turned 18, he left the hit TLC series as he no longer wanted to be a part of something that he felt wasn’t good for the health and happiness of his family. There might be some truth to what fans had been saying about the show being scripted or staged, as he disclosed via Instagram: ‘For the sake of ‘the episode’ and ratings, I’ve seen a lot of STORYLINES drawn up (loosely) about our lives.’ While the family was filming a particular scene by a campfire, he couldn’t help but laugh at how hard the producers were trying to get them ‘to follow the talking points’, no matter how ridiculous they were. 

In 2017, he released “Verbing,” a 16-page collection of short essays in which he opened up about filming the show, even if he hadn’t wanted to. It had strained his relationship with his family. Miscommunication led to his parents’ decision ‘to experiment having me see a therapist.’

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In his December 2020 Instagram post, Jacob revealed that he was molested by Chris Cardamone, a former executive field producer of the show. It took him a while to process things and to find the words and courage in speaking out. He would not be sharing details, but hoped that Chris would never be permitted to be around kids again. He wanted his disclosure to serve as a reminder that sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time. Jacob made it clear that his family was not to blame for what happened. 

Chris worked on the show from 2007 to 2010, when Jacob was between 10 to 13 years old. According to reports, Chris was arrested in 2008 for lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, and then he accepted a plea deal in 2010 for cruelty to a child with possible injury or death. He was sentenced to four years of supervised probation and 73 days in jail, and also had to complete substance abuse counseling. Most people thought or assumed that the victim was Jacob, but that wasn’t the case. During an Instagram Q&A with Jacob in January 2022, a fan commented about the trauma Jacob experienced when he was a child and hoped that the man responsible for it was arrested. Jacob responded, ‘It’s extremely difficult to pursue any legal action because of a system built to make it that way. He won’t receive any repercussions except for perhaps socially from my post.’

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Who died in “Little People Big World”?

Rumors that the Roloff family suffered a terrible loss made rounds on social media, and fans feared the worst, thinking that one of Matt and Amy’s kids died. While it wasn’t true, what happened was equally devastating.

Matt had a younger brother named Josh who died at the age of 34, but this was way back in 1999. Josh was a little person like Matt, and he led a difficult life due to several health issues. In the book, “Tall Odds: Being a David in a Goliath World,” Matt wrote that his mother had to resuscitate Josh many times, as there were times when his brother’s lungs and heart stopped functioning, or he had life-threatening seizures. He underwent numerous operations for his heart condition.

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Amy’s mother, Patricia Knight, died in 2019 at the age of 86, just days after Amy officially became engaged to Chris Malek. She said, ‘It’s hard to grieve one moment and then be happy the next.’ She was sad about her mother’s passing, but was comforted by the thought that Patricia led a happy life with her father, and by all the memories she had with her including the last summer vacation they had in which Patricia was able to spend time with her great-grandchildren. 

Another thing that Amy struggled with was finally letting go of the family farm. She sold her portion to Matt for over $600,000, and then bought a five-bedroom house in Hillsboro, Oregon for less than that amount – Chris sold his pad and moved in with her after that. Amy really went through a rollercoaster of emotions that year.

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Zach’s wife Tori had a miscarriage in 2021, six weeks into her pregnancy. The couple was very excited to have baby number three, but their happiness was cut short when their doctor told them when she came in for an ultrasound that they’d lost the baby. ‘I’ve honestly never felt loss like I did at that moment. I’ve never felt so sad, angry, and scared in a single moment,’ Tori said. She shared this news on her Instagram as a way to deal with her heartbreak and beginning to heal, as there was a need for her to acknowledge their ‘sweet angel baby.’ It was also a way for her to send a message to those who suffered the same loss, that they were not alone. The photo that she posted was that of a cross-stitched image of her and Zach along with their son Jackson Kyle and daughter Lilah Ray as well as Jesus with the baby that they lost in his arms.

Season 23 of “Little People Big World”

Fans of the TLC’s hit series eagerly await season 23, set to premiere on 17 May 2022, as the family is expected to face major challenges involving the farm. For a while, there was tension between Zach and his father as the former wanted to buy his mother’s portion of the farm, but his plans didn’t pan out. Instead, Zach’s family moved to Battle Ground, Washington State for a new adventure, but they would still be part of the show. Jeremy expressed an interest in buying the farm, but that also didn’t work out. There were some reports that Matt would be retiring, and wanted his youngest, Jacob, to take over. 

So far, nothing has been settled so fans could look forward to what would happen next. 

Martha Clifford

As an Author at Net Worth Post, I guide a dedicated team in the art of revealing the stories behind the world's most influential personalities. Fueled by a relentless curiosity and a knack for uncovering hidden stories, I immerse myself in the intricacies of our subjects' lives, weaving together accurate data and compelling narratives. My involvement spans the entire editorial process, from the seed of research to the final flourish of publication, ensuring that every article not only educates but also captivates and motivates our audience.

At Net Worth Post, we are committed to providing thorough investigations into the net worth and life achievements of innovators across diverse sectors such as technology, culture, and social entrepreneurship. My method merges meticulous research with eloquent storytelling, designed to bridge the gap between our readers and the remarkable individuals who redefine our tomorrow. Through spotlighting their journeys to success, the hurdles they've surmounted, and their contributions to society, we aim to give our readers a deep and inspiring insight into the luminaries who are paving the way for progress and ingenuity in the modern era.

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