Nick Gordon dies: The latest in a series of tragedies since Whitney Houston's death

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Nick Gordon's death is the latest in a series of tragedies since Whitney Houston's accidental drowning in 2012. The singer took in Gordon when he was 12 and raised him as her own, alongside her own daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. Now, all three are gone. (Photos: Getty Images)

The death of Nick Gordon is the latest sad twist in the legacy of Whitney Houston.

On New Year’s Day, Gordon — who the late singing legend unofficially adopted when he was 12 — died at age 30, his lawyer confirmed to the Associated Press. While there is no official cause of death, pending an autopsy and toxicology testing, Gordon’s brother Jack Walker III told People magazine that his sibling — who was once engaged to Houston’s only daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown before ultimately being found liable for her death in a civil lawsuit — died of an overdose. The magazine claims the “drug in question was heroin.” Gordon’s father Jack Walker Jr., declined to comment on speculation his son overdosed in an interview.

Gordon’s attorney Joe S. Habachy also declined to speak about the circumstances related to Gordon’s death, but spoke about his client’s struggle with “drug addiction.” And TMZ obtained the 911 dispatch for Gordon, which was categorized as a "cardiac respiratory" call to the Maitland, Fl., hotel room where Gordon was found. He was described as unconscious and not breathing and reportedly had “black stuff” oozing from his mouth.

Houston took in Gordon when he was not yet a teen and raised him with her only daughter after her split from Bobby Brown. While Gordon and Brown referred to each other as “brudder” and “little sis,” the pair began a romantic relationship after Houston’s own tragic death at age 48 in 2012 — a turbulent time for both of them.

While their relationship raised eyebrows — Houston’s mom, Cissy Houston, publicly branded it “incestuous” — they flew full speed ahead into an engagement just months after Houston’s deaths. Not unlike the singing great’s own tumultuous marriage, Brown and Gordon’s romance played out in the tabloids. There were rumors of drug use, fights between the pair followed by marriage rumors, his DUI arrest and the Houstons obtaining a restraining order against him after he made threatening comments and posted photos of guns on social media.

Then, another tragedy. Nearly three years after Houston’s accidental drowning death in a bathtub with cocaine a factor, Brown — the sole beneficiary of her mother’s estate — was found face down and unresponsive in a tub in the Atlanta townhouse she shared with Gordon and their friend Max Lomas. She was resuscitated and put into a medically induced coma and died six months later from pneumonia at age 22.

Video: Nick Gordon’s Former Attorney Says Gordon ‘Was Never in a Good Place’

An autopsy declared that Brown died from brain damage caused by drug intoxication and immersion in water — with the similarities to Houston’s death being pointed out — but it wasn’t ruled accidental or intentional. Her family blamed Gordon and while he was never charged in the case, they claimed in a civil lawsuit he gave her a “toxic cocktail” and put her face-down in the water. He was ultimately found responsible in that wrongful death lawsuit and was ordered to pay $36 million to Brown’s estate. Gordon’s attorneys called the accusations “slanderous and meritless.”

Gordon later made headlines for domestic disputes with a subsequent girlfriend, Laura Leal, in 2017 and 2018. However, he was never convicted of a crime.

Continuing the tragic turn of events, Lomas — who found Brown in the unresponsive in the bathtub — died in 2018, reportedly of an overdose. Lomas had told People magazine that all three of them were “bad into drugs” when Brown died.

In the statement by Gordon’s attorney Habachy to People after his death, he said, “While I cannot speak to the specific circumstances of his death, I can say that it’s been truly heartbreaking to have witnessed first hand the total devastation that drug addiction has wreaked upon a group of young friends, all of whom were loved and had immense potential.”

He continued, “Despite all of the incredible challenges Nick faced over the last few years I can honestly say that he worked hard to hold his head up and stay sober and that he genuinely wanted a happy healthy life with his family more than anything else. My heart goes out to the family and friends Nick leaves behind and to any other families dealing with the losses and heartache caused by drugs.”

And it went beyond just a group of young friends. Houston was one of music’s top stars with hits including “Greatest Love of All” and “I Will Always Love You” prior to her death in 2012, which seemingly kicked off this spiral of sad events for those nearest and dearest. She struggled publicly with drug addiction — which her daughter, whom she was close to, saw play out — including stints in rehab.

The iconic singer’s mom, Cissy, said in 2013 that her daughter, who sold more than 170 million records and racked up six Grammys, became unrecognizable to her amid her drug struggles and she was well aware that her daughter was “in grave danger.”

Houston’s best friend and one-time lover, Robyn Crawford, also detailed Houston’s drug use in a book last year.

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