HEBER SPRINGS Mindy McCready, who hit the top of the country charts before personal problems sidetracked her career, died Sunday. She was 37.
Cleburne County Coroner Waren Olmstead said McCready died Sunday in Heber Springs. Cleburne County sheriff's deputies were dispatched Sunday afternoon to a report of gunshots fired in the area of 1132 Fox Chase Drive, according to a statement from the Cleburne County sheriff's office.
Deputies arrived shortly before 4 p.m. and found McCready on the front porch, the sheriff's office said.
McCready was pronounced dead at the scene from what appeared to be a single self-inflicted gunshot wound, the sheriff's office said.
McCready's body will be taken to the State Crime Laboratory in Little Rock for an autopsy.
McCready arrived in Nashville in 1994 with tapes of her karaoke vocals and earned a recording contract with BNA Records.
In 1996, her "Guys Do It All the Time" hit No. 1 and its dig at male chauvinism endeared her to women. Her other hits included "Ten Thousand Angels," also in 1996, and her album by that title sold 2 million copies.
However, personal problems plagued her beginning in 2004 and included a custody battle with her mother over one of her sons.
McCready took her older son, Zander, from her mother and the boy's legal guardian, Gayle Inge, in late 2011. She fled to Arkansas without permission over what she called child abuse fears. Authorities eventually found McCready hiding in a residence without permission and took the boy into custody.
Her death comes a month after that of David Wilson, her longtime boyfriend and the father of her younger son. He is believed to have shot himself on the same porch of the home they shared in Heber Springs, a small vacation community about 65 miles north of Little Rock. His death also was investigated as a suicide.
It was the most difficult moment in a life full of them. McCready issued a statement last month lamenting his death. And she called him her soul mate and a caregiver to her sons in an interview with NBC’s Today show.
“I just keep telling myself that the more suffering that I go through, the greater character I’ll have,” she said, according to a transcript of the interview.
Along with her remembrances of finding Wilson as he lay dying, she also answered questions about whether they’d argued earlier that evening about an affair and if she’d shot him.
“Oh, my God,” the Today transcript reads. “No. Oh, my God. No. He was my life. We were each other‘s life.”
It’s unclear what circumstances led to McCready taking her own life, but it appears she was struggling again with twin issues that have persisted for years — substance abuse and the custody of her children. She checked into court-ordered rehab and gave her children up to foster care earlier this month after her father asked a judge to intervene, saying she’d stopped taking care of herself and her sons and was abusing alcohol and prescription drugs.
News of McCready’s death spread quickly Sunday night on Twitter, with major country stars paying their respects to the onetime Nashville darling.
“Too much tragedy to overcome. R.I.P Mindy McCready,” wrote Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks.
And Carrie Underwood added: “I grew up listening to Mindy McCready...so sad for her family tonight. Many prayers are going out to them...”.
Melinda Gayle McCready arrived in Nashville in 1994 still in her teens with tapes of her karaoke vocals and earned a recording contract with BNA Records. She had a few memorable moments professionally, scoring her first No. 1 hit almost immediately.
“Guys Do It All the Time,” a self-assured dig at male chauvinism, endeared her to female fans in 1996. She also scored a hit with “Ten Thousand Angels,” and her album of that title sold 2 million copies.
Beyond that, though, she’s mostly remembered for a string of dramatic moments as she spent the next 15 years chasing another huge hit. Her problems included a custody battle with her mother over one of her sons, arrests, overdoses and discord in her love life.
She made headlines in April 2008 when she claimed a longtime relationship with baseball great Roger Clemens. Published reports at the time said she met the pitcher at a Florida karaoke bar when she was 15 and he was 28 and married. Clemens has denied the relationship.
On Monday, Clemens handed a written statement to reporters at the Houston Astros spring training facility in Kissimmee, Fla., where he is serving as a special instructor for the team.
“Yes, that is sad news. I had heard over time that she was trying to get peace and direction in her life. The few times that I had met her and her manager/agent they were extremely nice.”
A decade earlier she was engaged to actor Dean Cain, but the two never married.
She also had a turbulent relationship with Billy McKnight, a country singer who is the father of her oldest son. McKnight was arrested in 2005 on charges of attempted murder after authorities say he beat and choked her.
McKnight was unavailable for comment Monday morning, but a publicist said he’d been told by authorities his son and McCready’s other child remained in foster care in Arkansas. McKnight was seeking custody of Zander in light of McCready’s recent troubles.
McCready pleaded guilty to obtaining the painkiller OxyContin fraudulently at a pharmacy in 2004 and got probation. She violated the probation with a drunken driving arrest in May 2005, a few days before McKnight was arrested. And in July 2007, she was arrested in her hometown of Fort Myers, Fla., on misdemeanor charges of scratching her Inge on the face during a scuffle and resisting sheriff’s deputies.
Less than a year later, McCready was arrested and charged with violating her probation by falsifying her community service records relating to the 2004 drug charge. A month later, she entered an extended care facility for undisclosed treatment, and followed that with a 60-day jail sentence. Inge took custody of Zander.
There were at least three suicide attempts between July 2005 and December 2008.
She tried to get help in an unusual way, joining the cast of Celebrity Rehab 3 with Dr. Drew Pinsky. Pinsky called her an “angel” and in an interview in 2010 said it appeared McCready was doing “rather well.”
Pinsky helped treat McCready for love addiction on the show and said he’d referred her to professionals who could continue to help her afterward.
“A love addict basically is somebody that really didn’t have a good model for intimacy in their childhood, often times traumatized in one way or another, thereby intimacy becomes a risk place, becomes an intolerable place,” Pinsky said.
McCready suffered a seizure in one of the show’s scarier moments. Tests showed she had suffered brain damage, something she attributed to her abusive relationship with McKnight.
McCready is the fifth celebrity to pass away since appearing on Pinsky’s show and the third from Season 3. Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr and Real World participant Joey Kovar both died of overdoses.
In the months after her stint, McCready said she found some peace, telling The Associated Press in early 2010 that she hoped to get her career restarted, write a book about her experiences and begin production on a reality show with her brothers. She’d just met Wilson and talked openly about their relationship, although the producer and musician declined to speak on the record.
With a publicist, reporters, cameras, makeup artists and musicians swirling around her during a press day for her last album, I’m Still Here, McCready fended off questions about a sex tape and said she and Wilson started out as friends.
“And I’ve never had a relationship like that before where we started completely as friends,” she said. “It turned into friends really caring about each other and then it turned into love and I’ve never had that happen before.”
McCready said her main goal in 2010 was to pull her family back together: “I would like my son back with me and for my brothers and I and he to be able to go and do this [TV reality show], and I think after that I will be a pretty happy girl.”
The new album debuted at No. 71 and failed to gain radio airplay. McCready’s plans never materialized and she soon was in legal trouble again, this time fighting for custody.
McCready took her older son from her mother, the boy’s legal guardian, in late 2011. She fled to Arkansas without permission over what she called child abuse fears. Authorities eventually found McCready hiding in a home without permission and took the boy into custody.
She and Wilson had their son in April 2012.
Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.