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Country star Mindy McCready dead at 37 of apparent suicide

By Ed Payne and Ed Lavandera, CNN
February 19, 2013 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Country singer Mindy McCready, whose struggles with addiction and mental illness gained as much attention as her music, was found dead on her front porch Sunday with what authorities described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She was 37 and leaves behind two sons. In 1996, her debut album "Ten Thousand Angels" sold more than 2 million copies. Over her musical career, 14 songs and six of her albums made the Billboard Country charts. Country singer Mindy McCready, whose struggles with addiction and mental illness gained as much attention as her music, was found dead on her front porch Sunday with what authorities described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She was 37 and leaves behind two sons. In 1996, her debut album "Ten Thousand Angels" sold more than 2 million copies. Over her musical career, 14 songs and six of her albums made the Billboard Country charts.
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Country singer Mindy McCready
Country singer Mindy McCready
Country singer Mindy McCready
Country singer Mindy McCready
Country singer Mindy McCready
Country singer Mindy McCready
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sheriff says investigation into her apparent suicide, her boyfriend's death are ongoing
  • Former singer apparently killed her late boyfriend's dog first
  • She struggled for years with addiction and mental illness
  • She burst onto the scene in 1996 with her album "Ten Thousand Angels"

(CNN) -- They seemed so triumphant at the time, the lyrics to country music star Mindy McCready's hope-filled title track to her most recent album, "I'm Still Here."

"On a cold dark cloud, with nowhere to fall but down, like a single, naked, unrelenting tear ... I'm still here."

Now, those words sound like a cry for help.

On Sunday afternoon, McCready, whose turbulent personal life overshadowed her music, was found dead on the front porch of her Arkansas home, the victim, authorities said, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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She was 37.

McCready also appears to have shot and killed a dog that belonged to her late boyfriend, record producer David Wilson, before shooting herself, Cleburne County Sheriff Marty Moss said Monday.

McCready is fifth 'Celebrity Rehab' cast member to die in two years

Moss added that it appeared McCready was home alone.

McCready leaves behind two sons, 6-year-old Zander and 10-month-old Zayne.

"Zayne and Zander are loved, cared for and comfortable with foster families at this time," her representative told CNN in a statement.

The boys are in foster homes, the representative told CNN.

Just a month earlier, police had paid another visit to the house in Heber Springs.

On that day, they found Wilson, the infant's father, dead on the porch.

It has been reported that he also committed suicide by shooting himself, but Arkansas authorities say it's still an open investigation.

"We're currently still gathering information in regards to Mr. Wilson's case and Ms. McCready's case," Moss said. "When we're able to lay all that out there, we will do so at that time."

Just a few weeks ago, a sobbing McCready appeared on NBC's "Today" show and denied she had anything to do with Wilson's death.

"Oh, my God, no. Oh, my God, no," she said. "He was my life. We were each other's life."

After Wilson's death, McCready took a turn for the worse. Her father pushed for her to be committed to a mental institution.

Questions in death of country singer
Dr. Drew: 'I was sickened and I was sad'
Dr. Drew: McCready feared stigma

The father of her oldest son, Billy McKnight, tried to regain custody of Zander.

Court papers say "McKnight is concerned about McCready's psychological state" and "has grave concerns for the welfare and safety" of Zander.

The long, tortured journey of Mindy McCready

Spiraling downward

Born Malinda McCready, she burst onto the music scene in 1996 with her debut album, "Ten Thousand Angels."

It sold more than 2 million copies. Her chart-topping hit "Guys Do It All The Time" followed that same year.

In all, she put 14 songs and six of her albums on the Billboard country charts.

But through it all, she was spiraling downward; the final fall was painful and precipitous.

She struggled, often publicly, with addiction and mental illness.

In 2004, McCready was placed on three years' probation after she pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining the painkiller OxyContin at a pharmacy.

The next year, she was arrested in Nashville for drunken driving, and was allegedly beaten and choked by ex-boyfriend Billy McKnight, who was charged with attempted murder.

"Yes, things have been going bad," she told CNN in 2005. "I think it's God's way of getting my attention, saying, 'You better wake up, girl. I have important stuff for you to do in life,' and I've definitely been preoccupied or sidetracked doing the wrong things."

Before 2005 ended, McCready had suffered two drug overdoses, was arrested on drug charges, was pregnant with McKnight's child and, authorities say, attempted suicide.

She attempted suicide again in 2008, authorities say, and overdosed again on drugs in 2010 before joining the cast of VH1's "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew." The reality show chronicles the lives of celebrities as they're treated for alcohol and drug addiction.

Stars reflect on McCready's death

Celebrity rehab

Dr. Drew Pinsky said he contacted McCready last month after her boyfriend's death.

"When I heard she was struggling, I did reach out to her and urged her to go to take care of herself, get in a facility if she felt she needed," said Pinsky, who hosts a program on CNN's sister network HLN.

"Her biggest fear was the stigma of doing so and what people would think if she, God forbid, took care of herself. And this to me is the most distressing part of this story. She is a lovely woman, we have lost her, and it didn't have to go down like this."

On one episode of the show, McCready performed "I'm Still Here," dedicating it to the other cast members, who included Dennis Rodman, Heidi Fleiss and Mackenzie Phillips.

"When I was writing this song, I was in jail," the singer said tearfully. "I never knew it, but I was writing for all of you."

Custody battle

In recent years, McCready had waged a public battle for custody of her elder son, Zander, whose father is McKnight.

In 2011, she took the boy from her mother, who had legal custody, and fled with him to her home in Arkansas, saying she had concerns over his safety.

McCready fights for custody of her son

A judge ordered authorities to pick up the boy and, days later, authorities found the boy and McCready in a closet at her home.

In addition to her relationship with McKnight, McCready had romances with musician David Malloy and actor Dean Cain; she also said she had had an affair with baseball player Roger Clemens, which he didn't confirm or deny.

But Clemens did issue a statement Monday from training camp with the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, Florida. "Yes, this is sad news," he said. "I had heard over time that she was trying to get peace and direction in her life. The few times that I had met her and her manager/agent they were extremely nice."

In 2010, Vivid Entertainment released a porn video called "Mindy McCready, Baseball Mistress" that featured McCready having sex with a man referred to as "Peter" and talking about her exploits with Clemens.

Country outpouring

Sunday night, country music stars offered their condolences as they learned of McCready's death.

"My heart goes out to Mindy McCready's family. I knew her well," singer LeAnn Rimes said on Twitter. "It's a horrible tragedy. May peace be with her sons."

Carrie Underwood said she grew up listening to McCready. And country artist Terri Clark said she had had some fun times with her "back in the day."

"I hope our society shows compassion and realizes the severity and reality of mental illness, and addiction," she tweeted.

Singer Wynonna Judd posted a series of tweets also calling attention to addiction and mental illness.

"It breaks my heart what addiction continues to take from this life," she said. "Addiction is a disEASE & not a character flaw. When the pain becomes too much, it causes people to want that pain to stop. This is just so unbelieveable & so sad."

Mindy McCready: A playlist

In her words

A year ago, McCready posted excerpts of a book she said was upcoming about her life. She acknowledged a difficult upbringing, personal problems and the challenges she faced turning her life around.

"I haven't had a hit in almost a decade," she wrote in January 2012 on her official fan website. "I've spent my fortune, tarnished my public view and made myself the brunt of punch line after punch line.

"I've been beaten, sued, robbed, arrested, jailed, and evicted.

"But I'm still here. With a handful of people that I know and trust, a revived determination, and both middle fingers up in the air, I'm ready. I've been here before. I'm a fighter. I'm down, but I'll never be out."

But Sunday, on the porch of her home, she may have changed her mind.

On Monday, McCready's publicist asked that the family be left alone.

"It is with the deepest sadness we say goodbye to an extraordinary and gifted talent, a daughter, a mother and friend, Miss Mindy McCready," said Kat Atwood in a statement.

"Our attention at this time is devoted to the needs and care of Mindy's family. As Mindy spent much of her life in the public eye, we respectfully request your consideration and sensitivity to enable friends and family this time of 'quiet.' "

McCready's "friends in music" are planning to organize a memorial in Nashville, she said.

People we've lost in 2013: The lives they lived

CNN's Vivian Kuo, Elwyn Lopez and Melissa Gray contributed to this report.

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