FEB 15, 2012, New Jersey – Hollywood pop singer and stage performer who died last week, A private funeral of Whitney Huston will be held Saturday at her childhood church in New Jersey, according to the owner of the funeral home handling the arrangements.
The service will start at noon at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, said Carolyn Whigham of Whigham Funeral Home.
As with the private burial, the ceremony is open to invited guests only, Whigham said. Reporters must remain outside.
A large crowd was on hand late Monday when Houston’s body arrived at the funeral home, borne by a hearse and escorted by police after arriving at Teterboro Airport. Cissy Houston, the late singer’s mother, was waiting inside, police said.
The body was flown from California to Newark on a private plane belonging to filmmaker Tyler Perry, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of the situation.
Cissy Houston is “overwhelmed but strong. Her faith is getting her through this,” a close friend of the family who was also at the funeral home told CNN’s Deb Feyerick on Tuesday. The friend asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Whitney Houston, 48, was found dead Saturday in her suite at the upscale Beverly Hilton, just hours before she was scheduled to attend a pre-Grammy bash at the hotel.
Why she died remains a mystery.
Despite widespread media speculation, a Los Angeles County coroner official Monday downplayed the suspicion that drugs played a major role.
Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said that “not many prescription bottles” were found in the singer’s room after her death. The amount of medications recovered by investigators was less than what is usually present in deaths attributed to overdoses, Winter said.
“I know there are reports that she maybe was drowned or did she overdose, but we won’t make a final determination until all the tests are in,” he said. Winter ruled out foul play and said there were no injuries to Houston’s body.
The singer’s soaring voice and impressive talent had taken a back seat in recent years to her struggles with drug addiction. However, said the close family friend, Houston was “no longer an addict,” meaning she was no longer using “hard drugs.” The friend said Houston was taking medication for a throat infection and Xanax for anxiety and to help her sleep. And it was not uncommon for her to have a drink when she went out, he said.
“She had let it go,” he said. “And we were proud of her.”
Video of Arrival of her dead body in the New Jersey funeral home.
He said he had seen Houston about two weeks ago in New Jersey, and she told him, “I’m at a comfortable place in my life.”
The friend said Houston had been “clean” from hard drugs for three years and had not used cocaine or marijuana, and added that her family is upset by media coverage focusing on her history of drug problems.
“In her life, she made some bad decisions, but let’s not forget the good ones,” he said, recalling how she returned to Newark at Christmas and gave to those in need. “… She took care of foster children, and children with AIDS.”
A singer who participated in an impromptu duet with Houston at a party Thursday night said Houston was not behaving erratically.
“I didn’t see someone who was high,” Kelly Price told CNN’s “Starting Point” on Monday. During the party, Houston took the stage unexpectedly and sang a hoarse rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” with Price.
Houston’s body was released to her family Monday, a day after an autopsy was conducted in Los Angeles. Results of toxicology tests aren’t expected for six to eight weeks.
“We do not know (the cause) yet,” Winter said, adding that police and Houston’s family will hear that determination first.
Beverly Hills police have requested a “security hold” on the coroner’s report, a common practice in high-profile cases that limits what can be revealed about an investigation while it is ongoing.
Asked how long Houston had been dead before she was found, Winter said she was seen alive within an hour of her death.
Houston’s body was found by her assistant, Mary Jones, who was often called “Aunt Mary,” a family source said Tuesday. Earlier, Winter had confirmed reports that the songstress was found in the bathtub of her hotel room.
Houston’s 18-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina, was in the care of her grandmother Cissy and her father, Bobby Brown, the close family friend said Tuesday. Houston and Brown, an R&B singer, divorced in 2007.
Brown released a statement Tuesday saying his daughter, after a “visit with doctors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Saturday,” is now “with my family, including her (half-) siblings.”
“Obviously, the death of her mother is affecting her,” said Brown, known as a member of the group New Edition. “However we will get through this tragedy as a family.”
On Monday night, Aretha Franklin — the singer known as the “Queen of Soul” and Houston’s godmother — honored her at a concert in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to CNN affiliate WSOC.
Franklin called Houston “one of the greatest singers that has ever stood before a microphone,” and sang Houston’s smash hit song, “I Will Always Love You,” the station said.