How Did Prince Die? A Look At The Evidence

New information has come to light

Prince died on April 21, 2016, at the age of 57, and the exact cause and circumstances of his death remain a mystery. Here’s what we know so far.

When are the results of the post-mortem?

When Prince died, his publicist Yvette Noel-Schure told CNN: “The cause of death remains unknown and it will be at least four weeks before we receive the results of the autopsy.” Sheriff Olson of Carver County, Minnesota promised the press: “We are going to leave no stone unturned and make sure the public know what happened.”

New evidence has now revealed that, at the time of his death, Prince had a very high level of fenantyl, an opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin. Dr. Lewis Nelson, who is chairman of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, has described this as “a pretty clear smoking gun”.

It can be fatal for a person to have a concentration of three to 58 grams of fentanyl per litre in their bloodstream; Prince had 67.8 micrograms per litre in his bloodstream. In addition to this, it be fatal for a person to have 69 micrograms per kilograms of the drug in their liver; there were 450 micrograms per kilograms of the drug in Prince’s liver. It has also been suggested that there was a “potentially” lethal amount of the drug in Prince’s stomach when he died.

As a result, the lead prosecutor investigating the musician’s death has revealed that is assessing the evidence before he reaches a decision as to whether he’ll charge anyone for Prince’s death “in the near future”.

Where and when did Prince die?

Prince’s body was found at 9.40am on Thursday 21 April, 2016, in a lift in his Minnesota mansion and studio Paisley Park. He recorded 30 albums in the building. Shortly before his death, Prince had missed a scheduled medical appointment, and so staff went to look for him. Upon finding the body, they called emergency services, explaining that the musician was not breathing (“we’re all distraught”, the caller said). Within 30 minutes of the call, and after medical practitioners’ CPR attempts had failed, he was pronounced dead at 10.07am. He was last seen when a friend dropped him off at Paisley Park at 8pm the previous night. The star spent the night alone in Paisley Park and, claim officials, may have been dead for hours by the time he was found.

Where and when was Prince’s funeral?

Prince’s body was released to his family on Friday 22 April, the day after he was discovered, and a private memorial service and cremation was held at Paisley Park on Saturday 23 April. Only close friends and family attended. A family friend reportedly said: “He wanted to simply disappear with no fuss, no drama, no fanfare.” Fans gathered outside Paisley Park and some were given purple boxes containing tour booklets and t-shirts, among other Prince memorabilia.

Fans pay tribute to Prince at Paisley Park

There was another memorial held at the Goldwyn Theatre in Los Angeles on May 11 2016. The event was attended by Prince’s celebrity friends and admirers, including Spike Lee, Nile Rodgers, Janelle Monáe, Gwen Stefani and Dita Von Teese.

What was the coroner looking for in the post-mortem?

There had been discussion of the painkiller Percocet. TMZ reported that the singer overdosed on the drug five days before his death. After performing in Atlanta on April 15 – his last ever show – the musician was reportedly taken ill after ingesting the drug, with his private jet from Atlanta to his home in Minnesota diverted to Moline, Illinois. It was just 48 minutes from Paisley Park at the time. According to reports, the plane descended 45,000 feet in 17 minutes – an unusually fast speed – and Prince was admitted to a nearby hospital, then given an emergency shot of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, before being discharged after three hours. It’s been suggested that Prince was taking Percocet to alleviate hip problems incurred by years of gruelling dance routines.

Local police have confirmed that prescription drugs were found on Prince’s property, and that some were in his possession at the time of his death, while it has also been confirmed that there were traces of Percocet in the musician’s bloodstream at the time of his death. Olson has announced that he has requested help in his investigation from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Olson has said that there were “no obvious signs of trauma” on Prince’s body and suicide has already been ruled out. Yet a murder investigation has been launched into prescription drugs found at Paisley Park, as detectives look into whether the musician was overprescribed the pills. According to The Daily Star, criminal homicide charges are also being considered. A police source told the paper: ‘A crack team have been assigned with learning minute by minute what Prince was doing during his final days. But the investigation will also look into his activities over the last two years.’

According to the Star Tribune, Prince was due to meet with opioid addiction specialist Dr. Howard Kornfeld, who runs the Recovery Without Walls treatment centre in Mill Valley, California, the day after his death. On the night before Prince’s death, April 20, his doctor’s attorney, William Mauzy, said that the musician “was dealing with a grave medical emergency” and so Kornfeld was called for help. “The plan was to quickly evaluate his health and devise a treatment plan,” Mauzy reportedly said. “The doctor was planning on a lifesaving mission.”

A second doctor has since been identified: Dr Michael Schulenberg. A police warrant has revealed that Schulenberg prescribed Prince drugs on April 20, the day before his death, though it did what reveal what the drugs were or whether Prince consumed them.

P SHOWS HIS NEW GUITAR #paisleypark

A photo posted by PRINCE LIVE THE BEST (@princelivethebest) on Apr 17, 2016 at 1:17am PDT

A snap taken at the impromptu party Prince held at Paisley Park on April 16

What else happened in the days leading up to his death?

After that Percocet overdose, Prince reportedly made four trips to the pharmacy near his home to collect further prescriptions. It has been reported that he was photographed picking up medication at a local pharmacy the night before he was found. Maurice Phillips, the singer’s brother in law, told The Sun that Prince had been working for almost a week with no sleep just before his death: “He worked 154 hours straight.”

Prince was photographed riding his bike around Paisley Park days before his death and also visited Minnesota record shop Electric Fetus on Record Store Day. Store employee Max Timander later told The Press Association: “Everyone I’ve talked to on that Saturday said he looked kind of pale and he was not totally looking in the best shape as he normally is. It sounded like he was looking kind of weak. I know he had just got over the flu supposedly.”

It was reported in recent weeks that Prince was suffering from flu and pneumonia, but ill-health was apparently nothing new to the star. In 2009 a friend said: “He’s in a lot of pain. He’s popping painkillers and hoping it will all go away.”

This was contradicted by photographer Cory Amundson, who attended an impromptu party Prince held at Paisley Park on Saturday 16 April. Prince appeared onstage. “We knew he’d just been hospitalised so we weren’t expecting him to actually show up,” Amundson told The Daily Telegraph. But then he popped out. I was a few feet away and he seemed fine to me. He looked normal, not sick at all. It was his way of saying ‘Hi, I’m OK’. Then he said ‘I have a gift for you’. He showed us his new purple piano. He didn’t sing but he played a bit of chopsticks on the piano instead. It was great.”

At the party, Prince referred to his recent health scare and said: “Just wait a few days before saying your prayers.”

What will happen to Prince’s estate?

It has been estimated that Prince’s estate is worth $300m. In addition to this, he owned his publishing rights and master recordings – an unusual arrangement – which his manager Owen Husney has put at £500m. There is speculation, too, about unreleased music. “I know Prince and he was a constant, music-producing machine — he couldn’t stop,” Husney has said. “I talked to his band [members] over the years and there is no doubt: sitting in that vault is unreleased music. I’ve talked to the people who know absolutely about that.”

In the days after Prince’s death, Husney claimed that it was unlikely that the musician would not have arranged a will. It’s true that the musician was famously in control of his own affairs. See: his 1990s contractual dispute with Warner Brothers, which saw him change his name to an unpronounceable symbol and perform with the word “slave” written on his cheek. “He fought too hard for his rights while he was living,” Husney told USA Today. “He battled his record label for so long, that one would assume he would have prepared a transition plan.”

Prince’s sister Tyka has since announced that Prince did not leave behind a will. Associated Press has reported that she filed papers petitioning for a special administrator to oversee her brother’s estate and said that immediate action is needed to run Prince’s business affairs, asking that Bremer Trust, a corporate trust company, be named administrator. Under Minnesota law, an unmarried person’s wealth with no children will be distributed among their parents, grandparents and siblings. Prince’s parents are no longer alive and Tyka is his only sibling. He is also survived by three half-sisters and four half-brothers. A judge has confirmed that Prince left no will, and that he left a bank in charge of his assets.

In three days after he died, Prince’s record sales surged by 42,000%. He sold 1,400 records in the three days before his death; in the same period after death, he sold 579,000.

What are the rumours about his death?

American tabloid The National Enquirer has reported that Prince was diagnosed with AIDS six months before his death, having been told that his blood count was low and that his body temperature was 94 degrees, with the norm being 98.6 degrees. The publication has also claimed that Prince contracted HIV in the 1990s. Because Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness, The National Enquirer reports, he refused treatment, saying, “God can and will cure me.”

A source allegedly told the magazine that Prince’s weight had dropped to 82 pounds. The National Enquirer also claims to have spoken to a source who met Prince days before his death, who told the musician, ‘We are praying for you’, to which Prince reportedly replied, “Maybe if you prayed for me a year ago it’d be different now.”’

Prince’s religion bans any kind of intoxication. And yet there are also rumours that he was addicted to cocaine and heroin. An attorney for two of Prince’s siblings has reportedly claimed that they told him over a decade ago of the singer’s addiction to cocaine. A person known only as Doctor D has told The Daily Mail that he was Prince’s drug dealer, providing him with Dilaudid pills and Fentanyl patches – prescription opiates that provide a similar high to heroin and are 40 to 50 times more potent than the illegal drug – for 25 years. He claims Prince would spend $40,000 on the drugs every six months. Naloxone, the ‘save shot’ Prince was given after his overdose on April 15, is an anti-opiate.

One of Prince’s session musicians, Sky Dangcil, told US Weekly that Prince “took the pills to keep the show going”, and that his health was becoming a “bigger problem”.

Prince’s former bodyguard Wallace Safford has denied that the star took drugs. Friends have similarly claimed that he was clean-living. Prince’s lawyer and former manager L. Londell McMillan, who dealt with the star for 25 years, told Associated Press said that the singer was “not on any drugs that would be any cause for concern.” He did concede that the musician used medication: “People use medication. The question is, are you on meds in a dangerous way?” He added: “Everybody who knows Prince knows he wasn’t walking around drugged up. That’s foolish. No one ever saw Prince and said ‘He looks high.’ It wasn’t what he was about.”

PRINCE IS GOOD! RIDING HIS BIKE AT #paisleypark VIA #JEREMIAHFREED

A photo posted by PRINCE LIVE THE BEST (@princelivethebest) on Apr 16, 2016 at 5:12pm PDT

The last known photo taken of Prince, captured days after he was reportedly hospitalised due to a Percocet overdose

Watch Lianne LaHavas talk about the time she had Prince round for tea