Whitney Houston death: Funeral planned for Saturday at NJ church
Whitney Houston will be laid to rest on Saturday and her funeral will take place at a New Jersey church where she grew up and showcased her singing talents as a child.
The 48-year-old iconic pop singer's body was flown from the Los Angeles area on Monday afternoon and arrived in the state later that evening. A golden hearse, accompanied by a heavy police escort, arrived at approximately 11:50 p.m. ET at the Whigham Funeral Home in the New Jersey city of Newark, where Houston was born. Scores of fans awaited its arrival.
The funeral home's owner said on Tuesday morning that Houston's funeral is set to take place at the New Hope Baptist Church on Saturday, February 18, at noon, OnTheRedCarpet.com has learned. The event will likely be by invitation only and no wake or public memorial is planned, according to WABC Television, the sister station of OnTheRedCarpet.com's parent company, KABC Television.
"Whitney called Newark home and we know that everyone, both near and far, are mourning the loss of this national treasure," New Hope Baptist Church Pastor Joe A. Carter said in a statement on Sunday, the day after Houston died.
Houston was born in Newark and raised in nearby East Orange. She began singing as a child at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church. As an adult, Houston visited it "whenever she had occasion," the group said, adding that her mother Cissy is still a member and served as its Minister of Sacred Music for more than 54 years.
Anonymous sources close to the family told the Associated Press that family members could possibly hold a wake for the singer on Thursday and a funeral on Friday at Newark's Prudential Center. The arena can seat approximately 18,000 people.
In East Orange, NJ, there is a school named after the singer. Students at the Whitney Houston School held a tribute to her on Monday. The flag outside is flying at half-staff, WABC reported.
The cause of Houston's death has not yet been announced and the investigation continues. Houston's autopsy has been completed but the results will not be released until a toxicology report is produced, which could take up to eight weeks.
She died at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California on Saturday, February 11. The singer was found "underwater" and "apparently unconscious" inside a bathtub in a room on the fourth floor.
Members of her staff pulled her out and notified hotel security, police said. Paramedics tried to revive her and pronounced her dead at about 3:55 p.m. Officials said bottles of prescription drugs were found near her body.
Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told OnTheRedCarpet.com's parent company KABC Television on Monday that they found inside her hotel room a few bottles of pretty "normal" prescriptions. He would not confirm whether or not water was found in Houston's lungs. A source close to the matter said one of the medications was the antibiotic amoxicillin, OnTheRedCarpet.com has learned.
Mixed with alcohol, some medications can cause death, depending on how much of both is consumed. It is unclear what substances Houston ingested on the night she died. The singer had struggled with addictions to drugs such as cocaine and pills and alcohol for years. She relapsed and returned to rehab in May. Witnesses say they saw Houston drinking champagne the night before her death.
Two days before she died, she celebrated and performed at a Los Angeles nightclub in what marked her final performance, although it is unclear whether she consumed alcohol (check out photos and video from the event).
Beverly Hills Police Department Lt. Mark Rosen told OnTheRedCarpet.com and other reporters on Monday that police have carried out a preliminary death investigation and are not treating the matter as a criminal case, but have "not ruled anything out."
On the day of her death, investigators for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office worked inside the hotel room where she died as celebrities poured into the building for a pre-Grammy gala that Houston was supposed to attend. Producer Clive Davis, her mentor, dedicated the event to her (see photos).
Her death occurred a day before the 2012 Grammy Awards, which featured an emotional performance of her hit song "I Will Always Love You" by Jennifer Hudson.