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Mindy McCready's suicide the darkest chapter in messy life

One of the first stories I ever filed for this newspaper was on Fort Myers native, and faded country star, Mindy McCready. It was July 2005; the blond singer was some nine years removed from her biggest hit, the No. 1 smash Guys Do It All the Time.

As was the pattern for great swaths of her life, McCready made local, and national, news not for an artistic achievement but for personal turbulence. She had just enough success to make her failures that much more alluring.

In the case of my feature: a suicide attempt, via drugs and booze cocktail, at the Holiday Inn Harborside Hotel in Indian Rocks Beach. She was with ex-boyfriend Billy McKnight, who was once accused of trying to kill McCready.

We've never stopped talking about McCready: her relationships with actor Dean Cain and pitcher Roger Clemens; arrests for fake OxyContin prescriptions and scuffling with her mom in Fort Myers; a 2010 appearance on Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. She was a gorgeous woman with gobs of talent who gave it all away, a modern train wreck.

And now, eight years after the Indian Rocks Beach incident — and 17 years since she was musically relevant — comes her final, darkest chapter. On Sunday, in Heber Springs, Ark., 37-year-old Malinda Gayle McCready — who had recently given up custody of her two sons, including 10-month-old Zayne — was found dead on her porch, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She was fresh out of yet another rehab stint. According to the AP, her boyfriend's dog was found shot beside her.

With McCready, once an 18-year-old Nashville prodigy who had sold 3 million albums, the truth has never been easy. Figuring out her love life and custody battles is exhausting. She fought McKnight for custody of oldest son Zander, now 6, then lost custody of him to her mother, whom she took the boy from in 2011.

But therein lies the reason she dominated watercooler chat long after she made positive musical contributions. She was a hot, raging mess at a time when our celebrity-fueled, 24-hour-TMZ culture kicked into overdrive.

And dark truths be told, there wouldn't be a TMZ if a whole lot of us didn't eat this stuff up. Much like Lindsay Lohan — who also showed shimmering talent then opted for nonstop turmoil — McCready is the very epitome of our modern pop-culture machine.

And if you'll forgive me for sounding cruel: McCready's death is an extra hot topic because we're in a slow news cycle. Everyone is jumping on the story about a faded country singer because, simply, there's not a whole lot of juicy stuff to talk about. As soon as Nicki Minaj berates Mariah Carey on American Idol again, McCready will be old news.

Oh, there might be a few final flares of McCready chatter. Last month, McCready's boyfriend, David Wilson, the father of Zayne, died from a gunshot wound. His death is under investigation. When asked by Dateline if she pulled the trigger, McCready responded: "Oh my God, no. He was my life. We were each other's life." But there will now be much speculation about whether the deaths are related.

McCready's turbulent life was prime gossip bait because there always seemed to be some new twist or low-rent turn. And yet, the irony is that for all the drama, all the headlines, her last act wasn't surprising or shocking at all.

We all saw that one coming.

.at a glance

A troubled life

1996

McCready's smash debut album, Ten Thousand Angels, is released, producing No. 1 hit Guys Do It All the Time.

1999

Her fourth and final album is released on Capitol Records.

2004

McCready pleads guilty to fraudulently obtaining OxyContin at a Brentwood, Tenn., pharmacy.

2005

• Boyfriend Billy McKnight is arrested in Nashville in May and charged with attempted murder and breaking into McCready's home and beating her severely. Also in May, McCready is arrested in Tennessee on charges of driving under the influence and on a suspended license.

• McCready is found unconscious from an overdose in an Indian Rocks Beach hotel lobby on July 22 after reportedly ingesting a potentially lethal cocktail of drugs and alcohol. Investigators classify the incident as an attempted suicide. It's later revealed she's pregnant with McKnight's child.

• She's arrested Aug. 26 in Florida and taken to the Williamson County Jail, where she spends 10 days before being released on bail. She had left Tennessee without permission and didn't report to her probation officer after earlier OxyContin arrest.

2006

Sues former boyfriend McKnight for $3 million, saying that he beat her in 2005 and that that hurt her music career.

2007

McCready is arrested in Nashville, accused of violating her probation on a 2004 drug charge by fighting with her mother in Fort Myers.

2008

• She is hospitalized after a suicide attempt. McCready's brother discovered she had cut her wrists and taken several pills.

• In October, she's released after about 30 days in jail for violating probation.

2010

• McCready is hospitalized in Cape Coral after an apparent overdose, which turns out to be a reaction to prescription painkillers she was taking .

• Appears on the third season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.

2011

Takes 5-year-old son Zander from Florida in violation of court orders placing the boy with McCready's mother, who was granted custody in 2007. Police seize the boy in Arkansas.

2012

Gives birth to her second son, Zayne, on April 9.

2013

McCready gave up custody of her sons earlier this month and entered a court-ordered drug rehabilitation program.

Mindy McCready's suicide the darkest chapter in messy life 02/18/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 18, 2013 6:28pm]
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