04.29.12 4:00 AM ET
Drugs, Shame, and Betrayal: How Whitney Houston Ended Up Dead at 48
On her final flight back home, singer Whitney Houston should have been surrounded by those who truly loved and cared for her. A few aboard the private plane that carried her body had been there for Houston through thick and thin. Her manager and sister-in-law, Pat Houston, was with her on this last journey, as was her beloved cousin, singer Dionne Warwick.
Also along for the ride that Monday afternoon in February was Raffles van Exel, a self-described entertainment consultant who’d met Houston years before on her concert tour and somehow wriggled his way into her close-knit inner circle. Van Exel was a partner with Houston’s sister-in-law Pat in a new decorative-candle business, and the singer had been set to film a commercial for the new line Feb. 11—the day she died. Van Exel never got his commercial, but he did manage to snap a picture of the singer in her casket and sell it to the National Enquirer for millions of dollars.
"Her family couldn’t even protect her in death," says a close friend. "They had the person on the plane with her body that took her picture in the casket. That tells you a lot about the life she was living."
Such was the tragic and twisted reality of one of the greatest singers of all time.