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Michael Jackson's death mourned by millions worldwide

LOS ANGELES

Los Angeles County medical officials, having completed a preliminary autopsy, said Friday that Michael Jackson had taken prescription medications but that the cause of his death on Thursday would not be known for weeks, pending toxicology tests.

As his fans across the globe continued to mourn the fallen pop star, tangled questions about the circumstances surrounding his death, the fate of his children and his complex financial dealings began to slowly and inconclusively unravel.

Craig Harvey, chief investigator for the Los Angeles County coroner's office, said that there was no evidence of trauma or foul play and that the family was free to take Jackson's body on Friday evening.

"There will be no final ruling as to the cause and manner of death until requested test results have been received and reviewed in context with the autopsy findings," Harvey said. That process will take four to six weeks.

The police investigation into Jackson's death — which one police official called "highly resource-intensive" — focused in part on his private doctor, Conrad Murray.

The authorities impounded Murray's BMW sedan at Jackson's rented home in Holmby Hills late Thursday, with the hope of finding clues to what led to the singer's cardiac arrest. Police officials interviewed Murray on Thursday and intended to do so again, several police officials said.

"Every investigation can go one way or another," said Deputy Chief Charlie Beck. "But nothing suggests criminality at this point." Beck said the department's robbery and homicide division had been assigned to the case only because of its high-profile nature.

The 50-year-old pop star, who had been preparing for a lengthy comeback concert series in London, was rushed to UCLA Medical Center by paramedics and pronounced dead in the emergency room on Thursday.

A 911 tape released Friday featured the voice of a young man imploring an ambulance to hurry to the scene, where he described a doctor frantically trying to revive Jackson.

When asked if anyone had seen what happened, the unidentified man replied, "No, just the doctor, sir. He's not responding to CPR. He's pumping his chest but he's not responding to anything."

Murray, who public records show is a 56-year-old cardiologist with a practice in Las Vegas, has lived in more than 25 different homes over the last decade in several states, filed for personal bankruptcy in 1992 in California and has five tax liens against him for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He is a native of Grenada and a 1989 graduate of Meharry Medical College in Nashville. His public record in California, where he was licensed in 2005, indicated no formal investigations against him. Several civil judgments, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, have been issued against him in recent years, according to court records.

Murray was hired by AEG Live to accompany the pop star to London for his comeback series of concerts, said AEG Live president and chief executive Randy Phillips.

"As a company, we would have preferred not having a physician on staff full time because it would have been cheaper without the hotels and travel, but Michael was insistent that he be hired," Phillips said. "Michael said he had a rapport with him."

According to HealthGrades, an online record of doctors, Murray is not board certified in his two specialties, internal medicine and cardiology. Board certification is not required to practice a specialty, but indicates a high level of training and expertise.

Jackson spent his final night alive in his favorite spot on earth: the stage.

At Staples Center on Wednesday, the performer did a full run-through of his comeback concert. He and his company — dancers, musicians, singers, aerial performers, choreographers and costumers — planned to fly to England early next week for final dress rehearsals at London's O2 Arena, the site of the pop superstar's 50-night sold-out run.

By lunch Thursday, Jackson was in cardiac arrest. But in Staples Center's spotlight, he was in high spirits and totally engaged, according to a number of his collaborators.

Energetic, optimistic and focused, Jackson gave no indication of what was to come, they said.

Phillips, the concert promoter, said the company will forfeit the more than $20 million it put into staging Jackson's comeback. He was also among those at Staples.

"It was fantastic; he was so great. I got goose bumps," Phillips said. "It made me realize why I got into this business. ... I take great solace in the pride and confidence he exhibited during production rehearsals on Wednesday night. That is the memory I will cherish for the rest of my life."

The worldwide wave of mourning for Jackson continued unabated for the man who revolutionized pop music and moonwalked his way into entertainment legend.

"My heart, my mind are broken," said Elizabeth Taylor, who was one of Jackson's closest friends who married one of her husbands at a lavish wedding at the pop star's Neverland Ranch in 1991.

Hundreds made a pilgrimage to the Jackson family's compound in Los Angeles, leaving flowers and messages of love. They did the same at his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and at the home where Jackson was stricken. Some camped overnight.

Scores of celebrities who knew or worked with Jackson — or were simply awed by him — issued statements of mourning. Some came through publicists and others through emotional postings on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, where countless everyday fans were sharing memories as well.

"I truly hope he is memorialized as the '83 moonwalking, MTV owning, mesmerizing, unstoppable, invincible Michael Jackson," said John Mayer.

Miley Cyrus called him "my inspiration."

And Diana Ross, the former lead singer of the Supremes who introduced the Jackson 5 at their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969, said she could not stop crying.

"I am unable to imagine this," she said. "My heart is hurting."

Information from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Associated Press was used in this report.

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Michael Jackson's death mourned by millions worldwide 06/27/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 1:07am]

    

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