By BETH DEFALCO and DAVE PORTER (Associated Press)
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The body of Whitney Houston was flown home to New Jersey late Monday for a funeral to be held at week’s end, said two people who have spoken with the singer’s family.
The two people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak for the family and because funeral arrangements hadn’t yet been completed.
Later it was reported that a private funeral service would be held on Saturday at noon at New Hope Baptist Church.
The 48-year-old pop star was found dead in the bathtub in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles on Saturday, Feb. 11, hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy gala. Beverly Hills Police found no foul play as the cause of death.
Funeral arrangements were being made by Newark’s Whigham Funeral Home, which handled the 2003 funeral of Houston’s father, John Houston, according to the two people who spoke to the AP. A canopy was being constructed Monday afternoon at the rear entrance.
The Los Angeles coroner’s office said Houston’s body was released to the family late Monday morning.
Houston was born in Newark and raised in nearby East Orange. She began singing as a child at Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother, Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music program for many years. Whitney’s cousin singer Dionne Warwick also sang in its choir.
On Monday, mourners continued to leave flowers, balloons and candles at the wrought-iron fence around the tall brick church, which sits near the edge of an abandoned housing project near the train line leading to New York City.
“‘She was an inspiration to everybody,” said Gregory Hanks, a 26-year-old actor who grew up in the neighborhood and who dropped off a bouquet of flowers. He saw Houston perform at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center years ago.
“I grew up listening to her as a little boy, and to hear her sing, you knew she was special,” he said.
Beverly Hills police said Whitney Houston was under water and apparently unconscious when she was found in a hotel bathtub.
Lt. Mark Rosen said Monday that the singer was found Saturday by a member of her personal staff at approximately 3:30 p.m. Rosen said Houston was pulled from the tub by members of her staff, and hotel security was promptly notified.
Rosen also said further details of Houston’s death are not being released to preserve the integrity of the investigation. Determining the cause of her death could take weeks, according to reports. The coroner’s office said toxicology testing is continuing.
In addition to her mother, Houston is immediately survived by one daughter, Bobbie Christina Brown, age 18.
It was reported at press time that her ex-husband, pop singer Bobby Brown, would attend the invitation-only private funeral.