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Painkillers cited as Michael Jackson's death examined
By Mary Milliken and Laura Isensee
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Doctors examined Michael Jackson's body on Friday for clues to his sudden death while friends and family pointed to possible prescription drug use by the "King of Pop" as he prepared for a long-awaited comeback.
A family attorney said on Friday he had been concerned that the use of prescription drugs by Jackson, 50, for dancing-related injuries would eventually prove fatal and that the entertainer's inner circle had ignored his warnings.
TMZ.com, the celebrity website which broke the news of the singer's death, quoted a family member as saying he was given an injection of the painkiller Demerol before going into full cardiac arrest at his rental home on Thursday afternoon.
The Los Angeles County Coroner's office said full results from an autopsy on Friday could take six to eight weeks, including toxicology tests to check whether Jackson had drugs, alcohol or prescription medications in his system.
Fans and fellow pop stars everywhere revived memories of Jackson's musical genius, tarnished over the last decade by accusations of child molestation and eccentric behavior.
President Barack Obama called Jackson a "spectacular performer," but also said he believed aspects of his life were "sad and tragic," the White House said.
His death was front-page news around the world as airwaves filled with his greatest hits from "Thriller" to "Billie Jean" and social networking sites were bombarded with messages and tributes from fans and musicians.
"It's so sad and shocking," former Beatle Paul McCartney said. "I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever."
On Hollywood Boulevard, Police put up barricades to control hundreds of fans gathered at Jackson's star on the Walk of Fame to honor the child prodigy who became one of the best-selling artists of all time, with 750 million albums sold.
Rodrick Pleasant, 35, dressed as Jackson in a black fedora, a single white glove and black pants, came from the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. "I want to show Michael Jackson love," he said. "We need love in this world and he always stressed that."
Jackson's family has yet to announce details of a funeral and is waiting for the body to be released by the coroner.
Lawyer Brian Oxman, a spokesman for the Jackson family, told CBS's "The Early Show" on Friday that he had been concerned about the prescription drugs that Jackson took due to injuries suffered while performing.
"I do not want to point fingers at anyone because I want to hear what the toxicology report says and the coroner says but the plain fact of the matter is that Michael Jackson had prescription drugs at his disposal at all times," Oxman said.
Los Angeles police searched Jackson's rented home in the upscale Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.
In the 911 emergency call from Jackson's home, made public on Friday, an unidentified caller said Jackson was not breathing and that a personal doctor was with him.
While there were reports the doctor living at Jackson's mansion had disappeared, police said they knew where he was and would question him later. They had impounded the doctor's car, which they said might contain medications and evidence.
REVIVED MUSIC SALES
Facing a battered reputation and a mountain of debt which The Wall Street Journal reported ran to $500 million, Jackson spent the last two months rehearsing for a series of London concerts, including Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Despite reports of Jackson's ill health, the promoters of the London shows, AEG Live, said in March that Jackson passed a 4-1/2 hour physical examination with independent doctors.
A complex process began in London to refund ticket holders, including people who bought tickets for sell-out shows from unauthorized dealers. A pair of "VIP" passes was offered on e-Bay recently for 16,000 pounds (over $25,000).
In death, Jackson's music enjoyed an immediate rebound that eluded him for years. His songs surged to the top 15 on online retailer Amazon.com Inc's best-selling albums within hours.
He dominated the charts in the 1980s and was one of the most successful entertainers of all time, with 13 Grammy Awards and several seminal music videos. His 1982 album "Thriller" yielded seven top-10 singles.
But in his latter years, his eccentric personal life and claims of sexual abuse overshadowed his stardom.
He was twice accused of molesting young boys and was charged in 2003 with child sexual abuse. He was acquitted of all charges in a four-month trial in 2005.
In 1994, Jackson married Elvis Presley's only child, Lisa Marie, which ended in divorce in 1996. He remarried and had two children, later split with his second wife, and had a third child with an unnamed surrogate mother.
(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by David Storey)