Whitney Houston was underwater and apparently unconscious when she was pulled from a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub and she had prescription drugs in her room, authorities said on Monday.
Two days after her death, Houston’s body was taken to a small, Los Angeles-area airport and flown to New Jersey, where her family was making arrangements for a funeral at the end of the week.
An autopsy was performed on Sunday and authorities said there were no indications of foul play and no obvious signs of trauma on Houston’s body. However, it could be weeks before the coroner’s office completes toxicology tests to establish her cause of death.
The 48-year-old singer had struggled for years with cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her behavior had become erratic.
Houston was found on Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel by a member of her staff about 3:30pm, just hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy Awards gala, police officer Mark Rosen said.
She was pulled from the tub by members of her staff and hotel security was promptly notified, Rosen said. She was pronounced dead about half an hour later.
“As of right now, it’s not a criminal investigation,” Rosen said, refusing to release further details. “We have concluded our portion of the investigation at the hotel.”
Los Angeles County coroner’s assistant chief Ed Winter said there were bottles of prescription medicine in the room.
He would not give details except to say: “There weren’t a lot of prescription bottles. You probably have just as many prescription bottles in your medicine cabinet.”
The coroner’s office released the body to the family on Monday morning. Later, a police convoy accompanied two vehicles into a Van Nuys Airport hangar and a private, twin-engine jet rolled out of the hangar and took off shortly after 3pm.
Two people who spoke with Houston’s family said the singer was being taken to New Jersey. Late on Monday, a hearse under heavy police escort arrived at the Newark, New Jersey, funeral home that officials said was handling the arrangements for the late pop star.
The two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak for the family, said Houston’s relatives raised the possibility of a wake tomorrow and a funeral on Friday at Newark’s Prudential Center, an arena that can seat about 18,000 people.
Houston was born in Newark and raised in nearby East Orange. She began singing as a child at Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother, Grammy-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music program for many years.