As Prince's health waned, alarm grew in inner circle

Some of Prince’s closest confidants had grown increasingly alarmed about his health in the days before he died and tried to get him help as they realized he had an opioid addiction — yet none were able to give investigators the insight they needed to determine where the musician got the fentanyl that killed him, according to investigative documents released Thursday (Apr. 19).

Just ahead of this weekend’s two-year anniversary of Prince’s death, prosecutors announced they would file no criminal charges in the case and the state investigation was closed.

“My focus was lasered in on trying to find out who provided that fentanyl, and we just don’t know where he got it,” said Carver County Attorney Mark Metz. “We may never know. ... It’s pretty clear from the evidence that he did not know, and the people around him didn’t know, that he was taking fentanyl.”

Metz said Prince had suffered from pain for years and likely believed he was taking a common painkiller. Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park studio compound on April 21, 2016. His death sparked a national outpouring of grief and prompted a joint investigation by Carver County and federal authorities.

51 PHOTOS
Prince through the years
See Gallery
Prince through the years
(photo credit: Getty Images)
(photo credit: Getty Images)
(photo credit: Getty Images)
(photo credit: Getty Images)
(photo credit: Getty Images)
(photo credit: Getty Images)
(photo credit: Getty Images)
US artist singer and songwriter Prince performs on stage during his concert in Antwerp Sportpaleis, on November 8, 2010. AFP PHOTO /BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM (DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Prince presents the award for British Female Solo Artist at The BRIT Awards 2014 at 02 Arena on February 19, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Prince and Ida Nielsen, Hannah Ford Welton and Donna Grantis of his band 3rdEyeGirl present an award at The BRIT Awards 2014 at The O2 Arena on February 19, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Redferns via Getty Images)
Prince Rogers Nelson is better known as just Prince and is pictured where is spends a lot of his time; on concert stage around the world. Denmark 2013. (Photo by: PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 19: Recording artist Prince performs during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 19, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 22: Singer Mary J. Blige (L) and recording artist Prince perform onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 22, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 22: Recording artist Prince (L) and singer Mary J. Blige perform onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 22, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin. The investigative materials — including documents , photos and videos — were posted online Thursday afternoon. Several images show the music superstar’s body on the floor of his Paisley Park estate, near an elevator. He is on his back, his head on the floor, eyes closed. His right hand is on his stomach and left arm on the floor.

The documents include interviews with Prince’s inner circle. That included longtime friend and bodyguard Kirk Johnson, who told investigators that he had noticed Prince “looking just a little frail,” but said he did not realize he had an opioid addiction until he passed out on a plane a week before he died.

“It started to all making sense though, just his behavior sometimes and change of mood and I’m like oh this is what, I think this is what’s going on, that’s why I took the initiative and said let’s go to my doctor because you haven’t been to the doctor, let’s check it all out,” Johnson said, according to a transcript of an interview with investigators.

Johnson said after that episode, Prince canceled some concerts as friends urged him to rest. Johnson also said that Prince “said he wanted to talk to somebody” about his addiction.

Johnson asked his own doctor, Michael Todd Schulenberg, to see Prince on April 7, 2016. Schulenberg told authorities he gave Prince an IV; authorities said he also prescribed Vitamin D and a nausea medication — under Johnson’s name. Johnson then called Schulenberg on April 14, asking the doctor to prescribe a pain medication for Prince’s hip. Schulenberg did so, again under Johnson’s name, Metz said.

On the night of April 14 to April 15, Prince passed out on a flight home from Atlanta, and the private plane made an emergency stop in Moline, Illinois. The musician had to be revived with two doses of a drug that reverses effects of an opioid overdose. A paramedic told a police detective that after the second shot of naloxone, Prince “took a large gasp and woke up,” according to the investigative documents. He said Prince told paramedics, “I feel all fuzzy.”

The world reacts to Prince's death:

93 PHOTOS
Social reactions to Prince's death
See Gallery
Social reactions to Prince's death
And just like that...the world lost a lot of magic ✨ Rest in peace Prince! Thanks for giving us so much...
I'm Crushed!! UK news reporting Prince Is Dead?! For Real?! Massive Loss for us all! What a Genius! Speechless.
PRINCE passed away???! WTF??!!!
Thank you Prince. All my thoughts & prayers are with all your loved ones. https://t.co/JT52sKlJBJ
"Dearly beloved We are gathered here today 2 get through this thing called Life..." -Prince
Omg..... RIP Prince.... 😨😔😢
Prince....there's no way
Prince was brilliant and larger than life. What a sad day.
Not Prince!! No no no.
THIS CAN NOT BE POSSIBLE!!!!!!! NO NO NO NO NO
Long Live The King.
Oh man. Not Prince.
You can't take Bowie and Prince in the same year. You can't. No. No!!!!
Well...that's awful. #Prince
Crushed to hear the news about Prince... What an artist. What an influence. Thank you for the love. And the funk ✨
Wow. RIP Prince. Another legend gone way too soon.
Prince. No.
So Prince and Chyna die in the same day NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! My heart is hurting :( R.I.P
RIP Prince. You were the king https://t.co/RwKxVsOx8F
We've just lost an incredible talent! So sorry to hear about #Prince we will always love your music forever and ever! #RIPPrince
Prince?!?!
A culture pushing icon and creative genius. Rest in peace Prince. https://t.co/vPWCGipU95
If the news about prince is true it will be a terrible loss of such an amazing music legend and icon.
Damn. Moms just went to prince concert in ATL like 3 days ago...
The Prince is dead. Long live the Prince.
Numb. Stunned. This can't be real.
I was hoping it wasn't true. Until it was breaking news on tv. Gutted beyond words. Soundtrack to all our lives!
One of my biggest inspirations. A true icon. You will be missed. Sad sad news today... #RIPPrince
We just lost a ton of heavy groove. #RIPPrince
R.I.P. Prince. Shocking. A real artist.
OMG I can't believe Prince died :-( we lost a true musical legend today. RIP prince 🙏🏼👑
R.I.P PRINCE, another icon gone to soon
We've lost the greatest artist of my generation. I danced on stage with him when milo was in my belly. Prince, I will forever love you. #RIP
Crushed to hear the news about Prince... What an artist. What an influence. Thank you for the love. And the funk ✨
"Every day I feel is a blessing from God. & I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful." ~ Prince 💜
Rest in power, Prince.
From one 6/7 to another 6/7… Rest in peace, Prince!
So sad to hear the bad news today. RIP prince. You will be missed!!
Can’t even process this. There will never be another. Thank you for everything, Prince Rogers Nelson.
For real though, shouldn't everyone go home from work and school? It's Prince. Its like hearing the Grand Canyon died.
This fucking sucks... Prince on repeat all day. Just like I did with Michael and Whitney 😔
So sad to hear about Prince- We've not only lost an incredible talent but we've lost a legend. 💜
Not Prince 😪
"Artist" & "Genius" are thrown around carelessly these days. Prince Rogers Nelson was an actual artist & a legit genius. I'm so sad #RIP
This is what it sounds like when doves cry.. Prince R.I.P. Condolences to his family & 2 us all
I am shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Prince. A great brother and music genius.
Dang it... Truly hate hearing we lost Prince. Sad day..
R.I.P. Prince ... One of Miles Davis' last collaborators. You will be woefully missed ...
Long live the Prince. Thank you for the magic you bestowed upon my eyes & ears. The best live show ever witnessed. https://t.co/3ZgxpsLoyk
RIP to #Prince 🙏🏽 your influence will be forever felt... https://t.co/iS5daD5IDj
"Dearly beloved, We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life". --#Prince
This is truly a sad day or maybe a year. All my music heroes are dying. Prince died today. . Prayers and thoughts to his family. #purplerain
Goodbye Prince😔😔😔😔😔 #PurpleRain
Been a fan since this 1978 album. My older intro'd me to his music. She in college, I in grade school. #RIP #Prince https://t.co/GWyK39LG2b
Sorry loves we are rescheduling the live chat to April 28th. Sending condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Prince.
Rest in peace sweet Prince. 💔 https://t.co/JCSeyI3FE4
Im in shock #Prince
Ths average of death for an entertainer is 57. The music legend @prince died at his home today. He was 57.
I'm heart broken #RIP #Prince my favorite singer of all time💔💔💔💔
https://t.co/59LDb3rktb To the man who didn’t need to say a word. The best performer of all time. Rest easy.
I stand Confidently in Peace knowing that our brother Prince knew and loved God. Therefore, ALL is well with his soul RIP our Beloved Prince
Rest in peace, Prince. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
So sad to hear about the loss of Prince today. #RIP #legend #purplerain 💔 https://t.co/GwbL8R975M
Prince's music hit you in your soul. Songs like Adore & Raspberry Beret made me think of falling in love, making love, everything love...
My musical brother... My friend... The one who showed me the possibilities within myself,… https://t.co/UumElgEgFg
This is so heartbreaking💔 I had this Prince pic drawn on my wall years ago because his music inspired so many R.I.P😥 https://t.co/60msa6hm3I
I Miss My Brother. Prince Was A Funny Cat. Great Sense Of Humor. https://t.co/67umQghtbi
Oh my god I can’t believe that Prince has died…he was a great great talent…RIP
Absolutely stunned and heartbroken! #PRINCE
PRINCE, sad to say, has passed on!!! He was a Giant. My deep condolences go out to his family, friends and fans.
Today is the worst day ever. Prince R.I.P I am crying!
RIP Prince. You were the king https://t.co/RwKxVsOx8F
Prince was the greatest live performer I ever saw. A musical genius ablaze with astounding, sexually charged energy. Loved him. RIP
So sad to hear about this terrible loss, Prince was a visionary musician and artist. https://t.co/49ZY5IFpUL
Now Prince? No no no.. RIP You genius x
Prince? Say it isn't so...
I'm in complete shock. More than doves are crying today. Rest in power, Prince.
I can't believe #Prince has passed. This is horrible news. #ripprince so sad :( :(
Just heard the news about Prince. We are losing all our greats. So sad .... Met him several times. Sweet man. The epitome of talent.
He was doing a post EMMY secret show in a tiny club. Maybe 40 people. He pulled me up on stage to dance w HIM. It was A MOMENT #PRINCE
So sad to hear about the loss of Prince today. #RIP #legend #purplerain 💔 https://t.co/GwbL8R975M
Im sooooo very sad right now... PRINCE can't die.
Sending love out to #Prince #AmericanGenius Thank you for all you gave us- https://t.co/fGX0MSfQd3 via @youtube
I'm stunned & so saddened to hear about the passing of Prince. He changed it all!!!! The true definition of talent!! https://t.co/Ni17GvPu67
R. I. P to the King Prince thank u for inspiring me to be a Musician First and using this tool to heal people
Can't breath..RIP Prince...Farewell Sexy Mother Fucker 💝
Deep tragedy. I'm so sorry for your loss Minneapolis. We will try and cheer you up for at least a little while tonight. #RIPPrince
Shocked and soooo sad!! #RIP PRINCE #music #legend #gonetoosoon https://t.co/KlEBPPl40U
LEGEND❤️ 💦PRINCE💦 I wish I could have expressed my love for him before he left. https://t.co/drlyFNWF9X
Today we lost a true artist. Thank you #Prince for all the music you put into this world. #RIP https://t.co/4yZ6Cb5hMb
Prince was a true gentleman, a king among men. He was as sharp and as talented as they come. I'm so glad I was lucky enough to work with him
RIP Prince. The only person I ever saw a crowd part for.
Rest easy, legend ❤️ #RIPPrince
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

A nurse at the hospital where Prince was taken for monitoring told detectives that he refused routine overdose testing that would have included blood and urine tests. When asked what he had taken, he didn’t say what it was, but that “someone gave it to him to relax.” Other documents say Prince said he took one or two pills. The documents show that Johnson contacted Schulenberg again on April 18, and expressed concern that Prince was struggling with opioids. At that time, Schulenberg told investigators, Johnson apologized for asking the doctor to prescribe the previous painkiller.

An assistant to Prince told investigators that he had been unusually quiet and sick with the flu in the days before he was found dead. Meron Bekure said she last saw Prince a day earlier, when she was going to take him to the doctor for a checkup but that Prince told her he would go with Johnson instead.

On that day, Schulenberg saw Prince and ran some tests and prescribed other medications to help him. A urinalysis came back positive for opioids. That same day, Paisley Park staffers contacted California addiction specialist Dr. Howard Kornfeld. The doctor sent his son, Andrew, to Minnesota that night, and the younger Kornfeld was among those who found Prince’s body. Andrew Kornfeld was carrying buprenorphine, a medication that can be used to help treat opioid addiction.

Andrew Kornfeld told investigators that Prince was still warm to the touch when he was found, but that rigor mortis had begun to set in. The documents also show that Prince’s closest confidants knew he was a private person and tried to respect that, with Johnson saying: “That’s what pisses me off cause it’s like man, how did he hide this so well?”

Metz said some of Prince’s friends might have enabled him as they tried to protect him. “There is no doubt that the actions of individuals will be criticized, questioned and judged in the days and weeks to come,” Metz said. “But suspicions and innuendo are categorically insufficient to support any criminal charges.”

The U.S. attorney’s office also said Thursday it had no credible evidence that would lead to federal criminal charges. A law enforcement official close to the investigation told The Associated Press that the federal investigation is now inactive unless new information emerges. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the federal case remains open.

But federal authorities announced that Schulenberg had agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a civil violation from the allegation that he illegally prescribed the opioid oxycodone for Prince in Johnson’s name. Schulenberg admitted to no facts or liability in the settlement, which includes stricter monitoring of his prescribing practices, and authorities said he is not the target of a criminal investigation.

Oxycodone, the generic name for the active ingredient in OxyContin, was not listed as a cause of Prince’s death. But it is part of a family of painkillers driving the nation’s addiction and overdose epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 2 million Americans abused or were addicted to prescription opioids, including oxycodone, in 2014.

A confidential toxicology report obtained by the AP in March showed high concentrations of fentanyl in the singer’s blood, liver and stomach. The concentration of fentanyl in Prince’s blood alone was 67.8 micrograms per liter, which outside experts called “exceedingly high.”

Prince did not have a prescription for fentanyl. Metz said several pills were found at the Paisley Park complex after Prince died, and some were later determined to be counterfeit.

15 PHOTOS
Prince and Beyoncé at the 2004 Grammys
See Gallery
Prince and Beyoncé at the 2004 Grammys
PICTURES OF THE YEAR 2004 - Singers Beyonce (L) and Prince (R) perform during the 46th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 8, 2004. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn REUTERS PJ/GMH Also see image GF1DUVGAJOAA
Singers Prince (L) and Beyonce perform during the 46th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 8, 2004. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn PJ
Prince and Beyonce perform a medley of his hits during The 46th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Show at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by M. Caulfield/WireImage)
Prince and Beyonce perform a medly of his hits during The 46th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Show at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by M. Caulfield/WireImage)
Prince and Beyonce perform a medley of his hits (Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: Musical Artist Prince (L) and Singer Byonce Knowles perform at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: Singer/actress Beyonce Knowles and Musician Prince perform at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Prince (R) and Beyonce (L) perform the opening act of the 46th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles 08 February 2004. AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: Singer/actress Beyonce Knowles and musician Prince perform at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: Singer/actress Beyonce Knowles and Musician Prince perform at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: Singer/actress Beyonce Knowles and Musician Prince perform at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Prince (L) and Beyonce (R) perform the opening act of the 46th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles 08 February 2004. AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: Singer Beyonce Knowles performs Purple Rain with musician Prince at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: Singer/actress Beyonce Knowles and Musician Prince perform at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: Singer/actress Beyonce Knowles and Musician Prince perform at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The underground market for counterfeit prescription pain pills is brisk and can be highly anonymous, said Carol Falkowski, CEO of Drug Abuse Dialogues, a Minnesota-based drug abuse training and consulting organization. Buyers often don’t know who they’re dealing with or what’s in the drugs they purchase, she said.

The likelihood of people buying pain pills on the street or online that turn out to be counterfeits laced with fentanyl is “extremely high,” said Traci Green, a Boston University Medical Center epidemiologist who focuses on the opioid epidemic.

Read Full Story