A fan visits a memorial created outside Paisley Park, the home and studio of Prince, on Saturday in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Healthy in his habits, tireless at work and an energetic creator who friends said avoided alcohol and drugs, Prince’s death has left investigators piecing together his final hours and mourners grappling with how the musician’s life could have come to such a sudden end.
An autopsy was conducted Friday and the body of the musical legend was released to his family, but authorities said it could be weeks before results, pending the completion of a toxicology analysis.
Carver County sheriff Jim Olson said investigators found no indication of suicide, and there were no immediate signs of trauma. Investigators will review Prince’s medical history, including previous hospitalization and pharmaceutical records, Olson said.
Speculation surrounding Prince’s death has centered on a sudden cancellation of shows and a medical emergency on Prince’s private jet last week, en route to Minneapolis. An unconfirmed report from celebrity news site TMZ said the musician overdosed on a painkiller, prompting the flight’s diversion just an hour outside of his hometown. Olson and a public information officer for the medical examiner declined to comment on the incident.
New details emerged on Friday, however, about the hours leading up to the discovery of Prince’s body in an elevator shaft at Paisley Park, his residential compound located in the city of Chanhassen, about 20 miles from Minneapolis.
The last time Prince was seen alive was around 8pm Wednesday, when he was dropped off at Paisley Park by an acquaintance, Olson said. Prince is believed to have been alone throughout the night, he added. When Paisley Park staffers couldn’t contact him early on Thursday, they went to the compound and found him unresponsive in an elevator on the first floor.
An unidentified male called 911 around 9.43am. “Yes,” the man said, “it’s Prince.”
First responders attempted CPR but failed, and Olson said his deputies are equipped with Narcan, an opiate antidote, but it was not used to try to revive Prince, who was pronounced dead at 10.07am.
For those who caught a glimpse of Prince in recent days, his unexpected death was made even more jarring. On Tuesday, he attended a show at the Dakota jazz club in Minneapolis, a venue he frequented enough to have a private table on the second floor, in a section that would be cordoned off by a curtain – a testament to his assiduous privacy.
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“He was one of our era’s greatest musical artists, perhaps the greatest,” said Dakota owner Lowell Pickett. “He was an international musical treasure whose combined talents only come along in many years.”
Pickett said he recently told Prince how overjoyed he was to discover his poignant cover of a Joni Mitchell song, A Case of You. “I told him … how much we loved finding this song at home this winter and how beautiful it was,” Pickett told the Guardian. “He said it was so important to him to do justice to Joni Mitchell.”
Dakota employees who saw Prince at the show on Tuesday said nothing appeared out of the ordinary with the superstar. He came and went as he always had before: through a side door and up the stairs to his table. On Thursday, a placard that read “Rest In Peace Prince” was placed on that table along with a purple orchid.Prince’s regular table at Dakota jazz Club, in Minneapolis, was adorned with roses to commemorate his death. Photograph: Ryan Felton for the Guardian
Prince had previously said he struggled with epilepsy as a child. In recent years, he dealt with hip problems that reportedly stemmed from a performance. Prince was a committed vegan, and his cousin Chazz Smith said this week that he avoided alcohol and drugs throughout his life.
“I can tell you this: what I know is that he was perfectly healthy,” Smith told the Associated Press.
Heather McElhatton, a journalist who worked as a set director for Paisley Park video shoots during the 1990s, said Prince had “limitless energy” and that she never saw him drink or do drugs.
“He could shoot for two days straight, without getting tired, it seems,” she said. “I never saw him eat, like physically eat, anything in 10 years … never saw him drink.”
In and around his hometown, the music icon was spotted numerous times in public only a day after the emergency flight landing. Last Saturday, Prince stopped by a record store in Minneapolis called Electric Fetus, a shop he highlighted in his last tweet on Monday.
Bob Fuchs, the store’s manager, said Prince was dressed head to toe in black and “looked normal to me”. He shopped for about 15-20 minutes and purchased about a half dozen CDs, Fuchs said, adding that he shook the musician’s hand and told him “thank you for your support”. Prince smiled back: “You’re welcome.”
“He was dressed really nice,” Fuchs said. “I wouldn’t have guessed anything was wrong.
“It was pretty low key,” he continued. “None of us would’ve suspected anything based on the interaction we had.”
That afternoon, Prince was spotted riding his bike near a suburban strip mall outside of Paisley Park. In a salon there Julie Reid, 47, was getting a haircut when he rode by. She rushed out the door in hair foils. Prince waved.
Next door, he waited outside for a friend to order a drink from Caribou Coffee, employees said. In perhaps one of his few indulgences, Prince occasionally ordered a coffee from the shop, according to a barista, Alya Al-Hilwani. He preferred a blend: a chocolate cooler, no whipped cream.
Reid said she later posted a photo of him casually riding the bike on Facebook, and wrote: “Prince sighting?”
“Everyone was like: ‘Wait, isn’t he sick?’” she said. “Well, clearly he was feeling better.”