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How Whitney Houston died: What we know so far
The singer's grieving fans are still waiting for word on the official cause of death. But some key details have already emerged
Whitney Houston at a pre-Grammy event last year: Many Americans suspect that drugs played a role in the music superstar's death over the weekend.
Whitney Houston at a pre-Grammy event last year: Many Americans suspect that drugs played a role in the music superstar's death over the weekend.
REUTERS/Phil McCarten
A

s Whitney Houston's friends and family prepare for a private funeral service to be held Saturday at her childhood church in Newark, N.J., details are starting to emerge about the circumstances under which the music superstar died. Houston was discovered dead in the bathroom of a Beverly Hilton hotel room in California on Saturday night, just hours before she was supposed to attend a pre-Grammy party. Here, a brief guide to what we know so far:

How was Houston's body discovered?
Houston was taking a bath before a scheduled interview with The Insider. Her assistants reportedly became worried that she was still in the bathtub, and started "banging on the door, trying to get in," says Insider co-host Kevin Frazier. Houston's hairdresser and bodyguard got inside, pulled her out of the tub, and called 911. When paramedics arrived, they performed CPR on Houston for about 20 minutes before declaring her dead. The hairdresser reportedly told her niece what had happened, and she promptly tweeted, "My Aunt Tiffany, who work for Whitney Houston, just found Whitney Houston dead in the tub."

Did she drown?
Houston was "underwater and apparently unconscious" when she was found, say police. Drowning is reportedly among the possible causes of death being examined. But that conflicts with a report claiming that the coroner's office told Houston's family that the autopsy revealed "that there was not enough water in the singer's lungs to indicate that she drowned." In that case, she may have died before slipping underwater.

Were drugs involved?
TMZ reports that the most likely cause of death was a "combination of Xanax and other prescription drugs that were mixed with alcohol." Officials reported that prescription drugs were found in Houston's hotel room, though not in large quantities. "You probably have just as many prescription bottles in your medicine cabinet," LA coroner's assistant chief Ed Winter said. Still, Houston's history of drug abuse and recent reports of the singer's erratic behavior have led to rampant media speculation that drugs were involved. In the days before her death, Houston was seen at the Beverly Hilton "acting strangely, skipping around a ballroom, and doing handstands near the hotel pool," says Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein at the Los Angeles Times. She often appeared "disheveled in mismatched clothes with her hair dripping wet."

Was there alcohol found in her room?
TMZ obtained photos of the hotel room where Houston died, including a photo of the room service order that was her final meal. (See the photo here.) The order included a hamburger, fries, a turkey sandwich, and jalapenos. The picture also shows a Heineken can and an empty champagne glass. TMZ also obtained a photo of the bathtub where Houston died, still filled with water and littered with a submerged towel and hair ties. (See the photo here.)

When will know for sure?
The true cause of death, and the final verdict on whether drugs were involved, won't be known until the toxicology results are obtained, which could take up to six weeks. In the meantime, the coroner's office has issued subpoenas for medical and pharmacy records from Houston's doctors and medical providers. "Medical records have become crucial in celebrity death investigations," says Anthony McCartney at the Associated Press. They helped rule out drugs as a cause of death in the cases of Brittany Murphy and Cory Haim, and were key in the inquiry into Michael Jackson's death.

Sources: AP (2), CBS News, Huff. Post, LA Times, TMZ (2, 3)

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