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No charges over Prince death, as investigation closed

By | Published on Friday 20 April 2018


No criminal charges will be pursued in relation to the death of Prince in 2016, it was announced yesterday. Investigators said that there was not enough evidence to confirm where the musician obtained the drugs that led to his accidental overdose.

At a press conference yesterday, Carver County Attorney Mark Metz said that the cause of the Prince’s death was “a counterfeit Vicodin pill that contained fentanyl, a dangerously powerful opioid”.

However, he added: “There is no reliable evidence showing how Prince obtained the counterfeit Vicodin containing fentanyl. The bottom line is that we simply do not have sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime related to Prince’s death”.

It was ruled that the pop star had died from an overdose of fentanyl two months after his death. Last month, information in a newly unsealed toxicology report showed that he’d had “exceedingly high” levels of the drug in his system. He had seemingly been unaware that he was taking the dangerous drug, the pills being an “exact imitation” of legitimate Vicodin, said Metz yesterday.

In the aftermath of the musician’s death the debate was re-opened around the willingness of some doctors in the US to prescribe highly addictive painkillers to celebrities and other wealthy clients. Searches of Prince’s Paisley Park home found further controlled substances, but no prescriptions that connected anyone to the drug that killed him.

The musician’s computer was searched for evidence of his attempts to obtain pain medication, but nothing was found. Metz said that the fact that Prince didn’t own a mobile phone meant that an often key source of evidence in a case like this one – providing data such as saved phone numbers and text messages – was not available.

Investigators also believe that the counterfeit Vicodin pills were what caused Prince to pass out on his private jet just days before his death. Though it was not possible to say for certain, as the musician had refused hospital treatment after being revived by paramedics following an emergency landing.

Prince’s personal doctor Michael Schulenberg and his bodyguard Kirk Johnson both admitted to helping him obtain pain medication shortly before his death. Although Metz noted at yesterday’s press conference that “Prince did not die from taking a prescribed Percocet” and there is no suspicion that Schulenberg supplied the fentanyl that caused his demise.

However, Schulenberg did allegedly admit to prescribing medication to Johnson, knowing that it would actually be used by the musician. It was also announced yesterday that Schulenberg had reached a settlement with the US Attorney’s Office, which will see him pay a $30,000 fine and undergo monitoring by the Drug Enforcement Administration for two years.

Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of Prince’s death on 21 Apr 2016. He was found unresponsive in a lift in his Paisley Park home and attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Having left no will, two years on the details of his estate are still being unravelled, hampered somewhat by a split between his court ruled heirs over the management of his legacy. A cancelled posthumous record deal with Universal also leaves some of his recordings in limbo.

The estate is, however, marking the anniversary this weekend, with a number of tributes and events. Yesterday, the original 1984 recording of his song, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ – best known for its 1990 cover by Sinead O’Connor – was released.

The recording was recently unearthed by official Prince vault archivist Michael Howe, who says in a statement: “After retrieving my jaw from the floor, we took the reel upstairs, analysed it, put it up on the Studer 24 track machine, and digitized it to 24/192. Even our ‘faders up’ rough mix was compelling enough to indicate that this was something very special indeed”.

Watch the newly created video for the track here: