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Whitney Houston's body should be released to family soon

February 12, 2012 |  7:57 pm
Whitney Houston death investigation is likely to take weeks, authorities say

With the autopsy completed, officials said Whitney Houston's family should be able to collect her body and make funeral plans.

Officials said the Houston family will probably be allowed to view the body once it is moved to a mortuary, though it's unclear when that will be.

Houston's family released a statement Sunday saying: "We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Whitney. This is an unimaginable tragedy and we will miss her terribly.  We appreciate the outpouring of love and support from her fans and friends."

The autopsy was completed on the singer Sunday afternoon, but the cause of death has been deferred pending results of toxicology tests, which could take six to eight weeks, Assistant Chief L.A. County Coroner Ed Winter told reporters at a news conference at the department’s office on Mission Road near downtown.

Houston was found unresponsive in her suite at the Beverly Hilton hotel on Saturday afternoon and later pronounced dead, Winter said.

Sources who were briefed on the probe Sunday said drowning was one of several scenarios investigators are exploring. The sources stressed that investigators still have many unanswered questions, particularly about what Houston was doing in the hours before her death. Investigators are also interviewing family members and friends to determine whether Houston had any underlying medical conditions, said the sources, who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

One source with knowledge of the case said that although Houston was found in the bathtub, officials are still unsure if she died of natural causes or was in some other way stricken.

Asked if water was found in Houston’s lungs, Winter declined to comment. Questioned about a possible suicide, he said that his department was “looking at all aspects of the case.”

No foul play is suspected, he said.


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Photo: Recording artist Whitney Houston performs at the 2004 World Music Awards in Las Vegas. Credit: Eric Jamison / Associated Press