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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Investigation focuses on Houston's behavior, prescriptions

 Amid word that Whitney Houston's former husband, Bobby Brown, will attend her weekend funeral, investigators continued Thursday to look into her actions in the days before her death.
At New Hope Baptist Church, the Newark, New Jersey, house of worship where Houston sang as a child, preparations were under way for the private, invitation-only event on Saturday. Actor Kevin Costner, who starred with Houston in the 1992 hit movie "The Bodyguard," will speak at her funeral, according to a source with knowledge of the funeral plans.
Investigators are aware of Houston's partying at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, and other venues "even the night before she died," a source close to the death investigation told CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday.
Hotel personnel have said Houston, 48, was "partying the night before her death in the bar," the source said.
Investigators are looking at video from Houston's television appearances and other reports as part of the investigation into her physical state and behavior leading up to her death, the source said. Houston died Saturday on the eve of the Grammy Awards.
Hotel surveillance video could reveal Houston's activities in the common areas of the hotel, the source said. The source would not confirm such video exists, but said investigators have requested it.
The anti-anxiety medication Xanax was among prescription drugs found in the room, the source said. Houston's family members and staff confirmed she used the medication, the source said, but investigators don't know whether she took it the day she died. No Valium or other drugs classified as benzodiazepines, or sedatives, were found in the room, according to the source.
Houston also had a prescription for the antibiotic amoxicillin, the source said, but "if taken as prescribed, it's not going to kill you."
When paramedics arrived in Houston's hotel suite, she was in the hotel room, not in the bathroom, the source said. "She was lying on the floor, wet, on her back" and had already been removed from the bathtub, according to the source.
"No one official ever saw her in the bathtub or the bathroom," the source said. "The assistant and a bodyguard reported to emergency personnel that Houston was removed from the tub."
Her body was initially discovered by her assistant, Mary Jones, who was often called "Aunt Mary," a family source said earlier this week.
Ed Winter, assistant chief coroner at the Los Angeles County Coroner's office, said earlier that while prescription medication was found in Houston's room, the amount was less than that usually present in overdose deaths.
A second source, briefed on Houston's behavior and activity in the days before her death, said she was seen ordering and consuming considerable quantities of alcohol at the hotel two mornings last week.
Houston ordered the drinks before 10 a.m. last Wednesday and Thursday from the bars in the lobby and pool area, the second source said Wednesday. Guests both days overheard Houston loudly complaining about her drinks, accusing bartenders of "watering down" or "putting too much ice" in them, the source said.
Other guests expressed concern about Houston's erratic behavior, according to the source. Her disheveled appearance, including mismatched clothing, suggested to them that she was intoxicated. The source said Houston was seen jumping in and out of the pool and doing somersaults in the pool area.
Saturday, the day she died, Houston was seen drinking at the pool in the morning, although the source noted witnesses said her behavior did not appear erratic.
A singer who participated in an impromptu duet with Houston at a party Thursday night said Houston was not behaving erratically, but did have champagne.
Houston's death certificate, filed Wednesday, listed her cause of death as "deferred," meaning a determination is delayed pending more information. Speculation has grown while authorities await the outcome of toxicology tests that could take weeks.
The coroner's office has issued subpoenas seeking Houston's medical records and her prescriptions, Winter said Wednesday. Investigators are also contacting pharmacies where the prescriptions were filled, he said.
"I know there are reports that she maybe was drowned or did she overdose, but we won't make a final determination until all the tests are in," Winter said earlier. He ruled out foul play and said there were no injuries to Houston's body.
The prescriptions found in the room were in Houston's name, Winter told Lemon. By contacting the doctors, investigators are attempting to verify the prescriptions and find out if there were any more.
Houston's battles with drug addiction had cast a shadow in recent years over her impressive singing voice and her talent.
However, a close family friend told CNN Tuesday that Houston had not used "hard drugs" for several years, although she was taking medication for a throat infection and Xanax or a similar drug for anxiety and to help her sleep. The friend said Houston was also known to have a drink if she went out.
In Newark, fans have left balloons, candles and photographs of the singer in front of the church where her funeral will take place.
The ceremony will feature performances by Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, who is Houston's godmother, the source said Thursday. Singer Roberta Flack will attend, but it was not known Thursday whether she would perform.
Brown plans to attend as well, according to a source close to Brown, and then perform with his group New Edition that evening. Brown considers performing as therapy to get him through a difficult time, the source said.
Houston's funeral will be broadcast Saturday
Samuel DiMaio, Newark police director, told reporters Thursday his advice to fans and curious members of the public was to stay home and watch the ceremony on television, as they will not be able to get close to the church.
The service is expected to be made available for television and web streaming, Houston's publicist said.
A perimeter will be set up for four blocks in two directions, and two blocks in the other directions, DiMaio said. The closest the public will be able to get is a staging area two blocks away.
Some fans said they are disappointed the family is not holding a public memorial for Houston, but others said they understood the family's wishes.
Gospel singer and pastor Marvin L. Winans will give the eulogy at the funeral at the request of Houston's mother, said New Hope Pastor Joe Carter.
Winans officiated at Houston's 1992 marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown, said Carter. The two divorced in 2007.
Asked why no public memorial service was planned, Winans told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night the family didn't "want to have a parade."
"I don't think, knowing Cissy (Houston's mother) and the Houston family ... it was a matter of public or private as it was, 'This is my daughter, this is my sister, this is my mother, this is my friend and we want to do this with dignity.'"
Although the family is not commenting on Houston's burial location, her death certificate filed Wednesday in Los Angeles lists it as Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, New Jersey.

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