Whitney Houston's funeral to be held at home church


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The Independent Online

Whitney Houston's funeral is to take place at the church in which she performed as a child.

The service will take place on Saturday at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, a week after her death.

The 48-year-old star's body has arrived back in her home state of New Jersey after being flown from Los Angeles.

She was found submerged under water in the bath in her room at the Beverly Hilton hotel where she had been staying ahead of the Grammy Awards.

Fire services and hotel security rushed to the suite but attempts to resuscitate the actress failed and she was pronounced dead shortly before 4pm local time.

The owner of the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark - which also handled the 2003 funeral of the I Will Always Love You singer's father John - confirmed the venue for the funeral.

Her family has also reportedly considered an additional farewell at an 18,000-seat arena.

There has been shock around the world at the death of Houston, a once squeaky clean star who slid into a battle with drug abuse, including a period taking crack cocaine.

There has been speculation about whether Houston's death may have been linked to alleged use of prescription drugs.

Police have said it is too early to determine whether these may have been involved in her death.

According to Website TMZ, the star's family were told by Los Angeles County Coroner officials that prescription medication mixed with alcohol - and not drowning - appeared to be to blame.

Her family now awaits the results of toxicology tests.

Lieutenant Mark Rosen stressed: "As of right now, it's not a criminal investigation.

"We have concluded our portion of the investigation at the hotel."

Los Angeles coroner's assistant chief Ed Winter said there were bottles of prescription medicine in the room, but added: "There weren't a lot of prescription bottles. You probably have just as many prescription bottles in your medicine cabinet."

Houston's family are said to have discussed holding some form of commemoration at Newark's Prudential Centre, which hosts college and professional sporting events.

Floral tributes, balloons and candles have already been left at New Hope Baptist Church, where Houston showcased her talents as a youngster. Fans have also gathered at the funeral home, playing Houston's songs and light candles in her memory.

Yesterday, Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden said the star was removed from the bath by a "member of her personal staff" at around 3.30pm on Saturday.

"She was underwater and apparently unconscious," he added.

"Ms Houston was pulled from the tub by members of her staff and hotel security was promptly notified.

"Fire Department personnel, accompanied by hotel security responded to her hotel suite.

"Upon arrival, first responders observed Whitney Houston to still be unconscious and unresponsive.

"They initiated CPR, but were unable to revive her."

Police asked the coroner's office to place a "security hold" on their findings to curb speculation before a final report is completed.

Officers refused to be drawn on the TMZ reports, insisting the information was not believed to have come from an official source.

The body was released to Houston's family yesterday.

She had been due to appear at a pre-Grammy gala party for her long-time mentor, record producer Clive Davis, at the Beverly Hilton..

The Grammys themselves opened with a prayer and standing ovation for Houston and her death overshadowed the glitzy annual celebration.

Meanwhile, Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, was taken to a Los Angeles hospital by ambulance and later released. A source close to the family said she was treated for stress and anxiety.

The 18-year-old, who is Houston's daughter from her tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, had accompanied her mother to several pre-Grammy Awards events.