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Whitney Houston's death unleashes mourning, produces questions

February 12, 2012 |  9:50 am
Alicia Keys gives a hug to Clive Davis

As the Grammys prepared for a special tribute to Whitney Houston on Sunday evening, investigators sought to determine the cause of the pop star's death at age 48 in a room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday.

Beverly Hills police said there was no indication of foul play but also said it was too early to say whether she died of natural causes.

Houston had drug and alcohol problems for years, and last May her spokeswoman said she was going back into rehab.

PHOTOS: Stars react

The Times reported that days before her death, she had been acting strangely, skipping around a ballroom and reportedly doing handstands near the hotel pool. According to The Times' Gerrick D. Kennedy, Houston greeted people with a warm smile but appeared disheveled in mismatched clothes and hair that was dripping wet.

Police said that so far they do not have evidence that drugs played a role in Houston's death.

After news of her passing, fans flocked to the hotel, some leaving flowers and tributes.

PHOTOS: Whitney Houston | 1963-2012

On Sunday morning, a bleary-eyed Ray J was briefly inside the lobby of the Beverly Hilton surrounded by three companions.

The musical artist, who reportedly had been dating Houston on and off, had his hood on, and was being consoled by others.

"Whitney dead," he repeated multiple times, as one friend grabbed him by the shoulders. "Whitney dead. We all gotta live with that."

[Updated at 9:55 a.m. A little later, Ray J left the hotel in the passenger seat of a red Ferrari.]

FULL COVERAGE: Whitney Houston dead at 48

The L.A. County coroner's office and the Beverly Hills Police Department are investigating the case. The coroner's office said Sunday morning that an autopsy was expected within the next 24 hours.

Paramedics performed CPR for about 20 minutes before the pop star was declared dead. The Beverly Hills Fire Department said it was called to the hotel about 3:30 p.m. and Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m.

Houston's death cast a shadow over Sunday's Grammy Awards and brought tributes to the singer from around the world.

Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich and his team were scrambling Saturday night to find a poignant and proper way to mark her passing, and their plan was to have Jennifer Hudson perform a "respectful musical tribute" on the CBS broadcast on Sunday night.

"It's too fresh in everyone's memory to do more at this time, but we would be remiss if we didn't recognize Whitney's remarkable contribution to music fans in general, and in particular her close ties with the Grammy telecast and her Grammy wins and nominations over the years," said Ehrlich, a key figure in the Grammys since the early 1980s.

Houston had been  planning to attend music industry titan Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammys party Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton.

Late Saturday, Davis told those assembled at the party that he had a "heavy heart" and was "personally devastated" by Houston's death, but "simply put, Whitney would have wanted the music to go on, and her family has asked for us to carry on."

It's unclear how long the investigation of Houston's death will take.

In other cases of high-profile figures dying unexpectedly, the investigations lasted for months and included detailed toxicology tests.

It took nearly three months for the coroner to officially rule on the death of Michael Jackson in 2009. In that case, authorities extensively reviewed the prescription drugs he was taking, interviewed his doctors and examined his medical history. The coroner ultimately determined he died of "acute propofol intoxication."

The coroner's office took about a month to rule that rapper Heavy D's unexpected death last year was caused by a blood clot.

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Cause of death likely to take weeks

Medics performed CPR for 20 minutes

Obituary: Troubled pop titan is dead at 48

TIMELINE: Whitney Houston highs and lows

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Hotel guest describes scene at Beverly Hilton

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Appreciation: A voice for the ages tarnished by addictions

-- Robert Faturechi in Beverly Hills and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Alicia Keys gives a hug to Clive Davis outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday in Beverly Hills. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

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