It's been one year since beloved musician Prince died of an opioid overdose at his home in Minnesota. The singer was just 57 years old, and fans and friends alike publicly mourned his loss, wondering how and why the pop legend left us so soon. And even after a year, we still have so many questions: How did Prince obtain the fentanyl that killed him? Is anyone to blame for his untimely death? In such a high-profile case, everyone wants answers — but there are still so few.
What we do know now, based on the release of new court documents on April 17, 2017 (including search warrants and affidavits from the Carver Country Sheriff's Office), is that Prince had kept a "sizable amount" of opiate painkillers — for which he did not have prescriptions — hidden away throughout his home.
These pills (some of which contained the extremely potent opioid fentanyl) were found mixed into pill bottles with other, more commonplace drugs like Aleve and in a suitcase with a name tag for "Peter Bravestrong," his alias. Some of them even appeared to be from a prescription filled in the name of Kirk Johnson, a longtime friend and personal aide to the singer, according to The New York Times.
Although these findings make it seemingly clear that Prince went to great lengths to cover up his addiction to opioids, they still don't reveal how, exactly, the singer obtained them — which is the main focus of the case at this point, investigators told the Times.
Meanwhile, Prince's home at Paisley Park has been open for tours since October (the elevator in which he was found dead is not available for viewing) and disagreements persist between his six siblings, who Judge Kevin W. Eide determined were the singer's likely heirs, according to The New York Times.
The Tragic Death of a Pop Superstar
Signs of Prince's deteriorating health emerged about a week before his death: On Friday, April 15, 2016, Prince had been hospitalized in Moline, Illinois, where his plane — en route from Atlanta — made an emergency landing at 1 a.m. to treat the singer, according to TMZ, which first reported the news of his death.
Prince had reportedly been suffering from a "bad bout of flu" for weeks and had cancelled two shows on due to illness. A source told People magazine that Prince suffered from a "serious illness" that weakened his immune system. Despite still feeling sick, Prince rallied in order to perform what would be his final show in Atlanta on Thursday, April 14, 2016.
According to TMZ, he felt "considerably worse" after the Atlanta show, prompting the emergency landing in Illinois. He was taken to a local hospital but released three hours later. TMZ later reported that the singer actually suffered a drug overdose.
After his plane landed in Illinois, Prince's bodyguard carried the singer, who was unconscious, off the plane so local paramedics could work to revive him before taking him to the hospital, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Authorities told multiple media outlets that either doctors or paramedics had administered naloxone, aka a "save shot," which is given to someone who's overdosed on opioids, such as heroin or prescription pills.
Prince appeared at a dance party near his home in Minnesota the night after his brief hospitalization, according to TMZ. Although he didn't perform, Prince told the audience, "Wait a few days before you waste any prayers."
Prince was last seen alive on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, when he was dropped off at his home. After staff members tried and failed to reach him the next morning, they went to his home to check on him.
Prince was found unresponsive inside an elevator at his home in Minnesota and recording studio around 9:43 a.m. on Thursday, April 21, 2016, according to a statement from Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson. Sheriff's deputies and medical personnel provided "lifesaving CPR" but couldn't revive him, Olson said.
Prince was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m.
The next day, Friday, April 22, 2016, an autopsy was performed on Prince's body, which was then released to his family for cremation. During a press conference, Olson said there were no "obvious signs of trauma" on Prince's body, according to NPR. Olson also said he had no reason to believe the death was a suicide.
The Cause of Prince's Death and the Prescription Opioid Investigation
On June 2, 2016, more than a month after Prince's death, a law-enforcement official told the Associated Press that tests showed the singer died of an opioid overdose. Following that leaked information, the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office released Prince's autopsy report, which confirmed his death was caused by fentanyl toxicity.
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opiate that's used to treat severe pain, often after a surgery. It is similar to but much more powerful than morphine, according to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse.
Prince's personal chef of almost three years, Ray Roberts, told the Associated Press that the singer was dealing with frequent bouts of sore throat and upset stomach in the months leading up to his death. He was eating less and drinking less water, according to Roberts, who said Prince looked like he was losing weight.
"It felt like he wasn't himself probably the last month or two," Roberts said. "I think he was just struggling with being sick a lot."
The singer also suffered from chronic pain, particularly in his hips, according to Sheila E., who collaborated with Prince and was once engaged to him.
"I mean, you think about all the years he was jumping off those risers," she told Entertainment Tonight. "They were not low — they were very, very high — and to jump off that ... First of all, the Purple Rain tour and the way that they were stacked, he had those heels on. We did a year of touring [and] for him to jump off of that — just an entire year would have messed up his knees."
"He was in pain all the time, but he was a performer," she added.
We'll continue to update this post as more information becomes available.