Whitney Houston‘s death on the eve of the Grammys in 2012 came as a shock, if not exactly a surprise. The platinum-selling singer and actress who once had one of the all-time greatest voices had struggled with drugs, a rocky marriage and a highly public divorce, and her career wasn’t close to what it was at her peak.
But she was a beloved entertainer, and it was horrible to lose her at the tragically young age of 48.
When her only daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, died last July, there couldn’t have been a more heartbreaking coda to Houston’s story.
And while the eerie similarities were obvious at the time, as Bobbi Kristina—who was hospitalized in a fit of despair upon news of her mother’s death—was, like Houston, found unconscious in a bathtub full of water, the sad parallels between their experiences only became more potently felt today.
Houston’s relationship with Bobbi Kristina’s father, pop-R&B star Bobby Brown, was one for the dysfunctional-celebrity-couple books. Even before they opted to let the cameras in for the 2005 reality series Being Bobby Brown, Brown’s battle with substance abuse was well-documented.
It became impossible to discern who led whom down what road, or whether they just brought out the worst in each other. But regardless of where they ended up, he and Houston were longtime sweethearts, married since 1992. She stuck with Brown through rehab, arrests, car accidents and more misbehavior that seemed to be a symptom of his addictions, and even at the height of her success she used drugs as well, at one point describing herself as “a functioning junkie.”
Brown and Houston divorced in 2007, and the New Edition singer always insisted that he didn’t introduce Houston to drugs—rumors and accusations that only kicked up again when she died.
Scheduled to attend longtime friend Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammys party at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Feb. 11, 2012, Houston was instead found face-down in a bathtub full of water in her suite at the hotel at around 3:35 p.m.
The L.A. County coroner’s office later noted in its postmortem findings that a “white crystal like substance” was found in the room, along with an open bottle of champagne, food and other personal items.
Houston’s official cause of death was determined to be an accidental drowning, with atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use “just probably immediately prior” to drowning listed as contributing factors. A toxicology screening turned up traces of marijuana; Flexeril, a muscle relaxant; the anti-anxiety medication Xanax; and Benadryl in her system.
Bobbi Kristina, who was 18 when Houston died, spent less than half as much time on earth as her mom, but hit upon a number of the same troubles. Only in the teen’s case, she was an aspiring singer trying to make it in the shadow of her mother’s enormous talent, and there would have been no way to escape comparisons. Even more sadly, she was even robbed of her mother’s guidance.
Also like her mom, Bobbi Kristina embarked on what would prove to be a toxic relationship at a young age and, at some point along the way, she turned to drugs.
Her relationship with Gordon, who had spent a lot of his youth living with the Houston-Brown family and who was brought up like a brother to Bobbi Kristina, seemed happy. They also let the world think that they had gotten married, though that turned out not to be the case, and Bobbi Kristina’s estate would later accuse him in a lawsuit of filching money from her bank accounts and ultimately contributing to her death.
Gordon, who spent time in rehab last spring, has denied being anything other than devastated by what happened and his attorney has insisted he had nothing to do with his girlfriend’s death.
A friend stated in a deposition filed along with a lawsuit brought against Bobbi Kristina’s Gordon last September, that Bobbi Kristina “smoked marijuana, she probably smoked crack often, and also did heroin.”
Alex Reid, another close friend of Bobbi Kristina’s, also told E! News last summer that the young woman had been living in fear of Gordon, whom, she said, was abusive and controlling.
“Krissi felt isolated from the whole family and that left her completely dependent on Nick for everything,” Reid said. “It was just her and Nick and that was it.”
The then-21-year-old was in a car wreck four days before she was found unconscious, having lost control of her Jeep Liberty and hitting two other vehicles on Jan. 27, 2015. At the time a bench warrant was also out for her arrest after she skipped a court date regarding a minor traffic violation.
On Jan. 31, 2015, Gordon and a friend found Bobbi Kristina face-down in a bathtub full of water in the Atlanta-area condo she lived in with Gordon. She was in a coma or otherwise unresponsive for nearly six months, ultimately passing away at a hospice facility on July 26, 2015.
Just today, after her a judge ordered her autopsy results unsealed at the request of a local news station, we were told that Whitney Houston’s daughter had died of a combination of drowning and drug intoxication. Traces of marijuana, alcohol, a cocaine byproduct, morphine and a sedative/anxiety treatment medication were found in her body.
The Fulton County medical examiner couldn’t rule on whether her death was an accident or not, or whether the morphine equated with heroin use.
While one question has now been answered, on what would have been Bobbi Kristina Brown’s 23rd birthday, so many more remain. And we’ll never know whether more time with her mom would have resulted in a different ending—for both of them.
—With reporting by Melanie Bromley