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Whitney Houston's Death: Family Plans to Lay Singer to Rest

Good Morning America

Whitney Houston's family plans to lay her to rest in a private service on Thursday, while a separate public memorial may take place on Friday at New Jersey's Prudential Center, an indoor arena that can accommodate nearly 20,000.

A source confirmed the plans Monday night just as the pop icon's body was returned in a private jet and gold-colored hearse to her home state of New Jersey, two days after she was found dead in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.

Family members have been discussing putting together a public memorial for the pop star at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Asked if the event would be on the scale of Michael Jackson's 2009 memorial at Los Angeles' Staples Center, the source said, "It's going to be big." Seating for the event, if it takes place, will reportedly be first-come, first-served, and there will be a private VIP area.

"It's certainly a discussion, but there is also a basketball game at the Pru Center Friday so there's serious logistics we need to look at before making a final call on this thing," said her longtime publicist Kristen Foster.

Much of the Houston family and the singer's entourage has left Los Angeles for New Jersey. Bobbi Kristina, Ray Watson -- Houston's brother-in-law and bodyguard -- and more family members are now back in the Garden State. The plane believed to be carrying the singer's body landed at Teterboro Airport, north of Newark, N.J., at 10:31 p.m. ET Monday.

The Houston's funeral arrangements are expected to be handled by the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, N.J., the same place that handled arrangements for her father in 2003, according to ABC News' New York affiliate WABC. The home isn't far from the New Hope Baptist Church, where Houston began her lifetime of singing in the church's choir.

PHOTOS: Whitney Houston Through the Years

Houston was found "underwater and unconscious" in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel room Saturday afternoon, according to Beverly Hills police. Prescription drugs were found nearby, and bottles of champagne and beer were in the adjacent room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, as seen in photos of the scene obtained by TMZ – and on the floor next to the tub where she died.

ABC News has confirmed it was Houston's aunt Mary Jones who found her in the bathtub and tried to revive her before paramedics were on the scene.

Amid the circumstances of her death, and Houston's history of drug addiction, many have speculated that the singer died after taking a toxic mix of prescription drugs and alcohol. Results of toxicology tests are not expected to be complete for six to eight weeks.

There were no obvious signs of trauma or foul play on Houston's body, according to sources with knowledge of the case. And while detectives from the Beverly Hills Police Crimes Against Persons detail are working the case, the department insists this is not a homicide investigation. However, they have not ruled out the possibility that the case could turn into one.

"We're conducting a death investigation and we need to be very clear about that,'' said Beverly Hills Police Department Public Information Officer Lt. Mark Rosen. "We do not know the cause of death, we don't know the circumstances leading up to her death."

Newsweek writer Allison Samuels, who was at the Beverly Hilton Hotel when Houston died, told "Good Morning America" that the singer's family is still reeling from her death.

"The family is still in state of disbelief and shock, not understanding how it happened, and her mother was so close to Whitney. She's functioning enough to plan the funeral … so fans are able to give their love to Whitney," she said.

Samuels also said that she spoke with a bodyguard of Houston's who stopped working for her over a year ago, and that he told her that the people now working for her did not follow the strict safety rules that he knew should have been in place to protect her while she is alone.

"When they worked for her they didn't allow her to take baths. They would check on her every 7-10 minutes. This is what they feared -- something would happen in the bathroom when they were away from everyone.

"She now had a lot of new people around her that didn't use that protocol. Rules were in place to keep her together," she said.


Longtime Bodyguard Tried to "Eliminated Negative Influences"

Alan Jacobs was director of security for Houston from 1995 to 2002, and often spent 12 hours a day with the singer.

Jacobs says that he saw seven years of ups and downs at the height of her singing career as he was by her side for galas, charities and the awards shows. Jacobs says Houston never did drugs in front of him but told "Good Morning America" he could see their effect on her.

"It's like living in the eye of a hurricane, and constantly trying to fight being pulled into the swirl of activity that surrounds you," he told "GMA."

"Whatever was going on, was not something that was in control, and certainly was something I felt needed to be addressed. so I took action to address it. I eliminated access to her by certain people that I thought were negative influences."

Despite these attempts to keep Houston away from trouble's path Jacobs eventually had to concede that you he couldn't protect her all of the time. As Houston said in an infamous 2002 interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, "the biggest devil is me."

"The reality of it is, that you can protect someone from everything, but you cannot protect them from themselves," Jacobs told "GMA."

Jacobs says that he was shocked and saddened, he was not totally surprised when Houston died. He also says that he had warned her and husband Bobby Brown it would happen, and says he quit his job when she did not stop abusing drugs.

"I said, 'you hired me to do a job, to protect you … but I cannot protect you from yourselves.' I took a stand and it was about four months later that we decided to part company," he says.

Jacobs says after he left, Houston turned over security to her relatives, and her head bodyguard until her death was brother-in-law Watson.

"It would seem that a closer eye might have been kept," Jacobs says. "But there again there's an old saying that the boss may not always be right, but the boss is always the boss."

ABC News' Eileen Murphy contributed to this report.

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