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American Scene: Whitney Houston died from drowning, coroner says

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CALIFORNIA

Whitney Houston died from drowning, coroner says

LOS ANGELES | Whitney Houston died from drowning in a hotel bathtub, but coroner's officials said Thursday that heart disease and chronic cocaine use were contributing factors to the singer's death.

The release of autopsy findings ends weeks of speculation about what killed the Grammy-winning singer on Feb. 11 on the eve of the Grammy Awards.

Houston was found submerged in the bathtub of her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and her death was ruled as accidental. Several bottles of prescription medications were found in her hotel room, but coroner's officials said they weren't in excessive quantities.

Beverly Hills police said in a statement that there was no evidence of wrongdoing in connection with Houston's death.

"We are saddened to learn of the toxicology results, although we are glad to now have closure," said Patricia Houston, the singer's sister-in-law and manager.

Coroner's spokesman Craig Harvey said cocaine and its byproducts were found in Houston's system, and it was listed as a contributing factor in her death. He said the results indicated that Houston was a chronic cocaine user.

Coroner's officials said they also found traces of marijuana, Xanax and Benadryl in her system.

Houston died just hours before she was scheduled to appear at producer Clive Davis' pre-Grammy Awards bash.

The singer was buried in a New Jersey cemetery next to her father after an emotional four-hour funeral service that was attended by friends, family and superstars such as Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and Roberta Flack.

Houston, a sensation from her first, eponymous album in 1985, was one of the world's best-selling artists from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, turning out such hits as "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," "How Will I Know," "The Greatest Love of All" and "I Will Always Love You." But as she struggled with drugs, her majestic voice became raspy, and she couldn't hit the high notes.

Interest in her music has skyrocketed since her death, pushing her songs back onto charts and into heavy rotation on the radio.

WISCONSIN

USGS: Micro-quake near city bothered by booms

MILWAUKEE | Federal geologists confirmed Thursday that a minor earthquake occurred this week near the eastern Wisconsin city where researchers have been investigating a series of unexplained booming sounds.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 1.5-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday just after midnight in Clintonville, a town of about 4,600 people about 40 miles west of Green Bay.

Geophysicist Paul Caruso said that loud booming noises have been known to accompany earthquakes. He said the mysterious sounds that town officials have been investigating could be linked to the quake.

"To be honest, I'm skeptical that there'd be a sound report associated with such a small earthquake, but it's possible," Mr. Caruso said.

Earthquakes can generate seismic energy that moves underground at thousands of miles per hour, producing a sonic boom when the waves come to the Earth's surface, Mr. Caruso said.

The U.S. Geological Survey says earthquakes with magnitudes of 2.0 or less aren't commonly felt by people and are generally recorded only on local seismographs. Mr. Caruso said the Tuesday earthquake was discovered after people reported feeling something, and geologists pored through their data to determine that an earthquake did indeed strike.

Local residents have reported late-night disturbances since Sunday, including a shaking ground and loud booms that sound like thunder or fireworks.

City officials investigated and ruled out a number of human-related explanations, such as construction, traffic, military exercises and underground work.

COLORADO

4 students suspended in pepper-spray prank

NIWOT | Four students at Niwot High School in Colorado have been suspended after pepper spray forced a school evacuation.

Four adults and 45 students were treated by paramedics for respiratory problems and skin irritation after the pepper spray got into a ventilation system.

According to KMGH-TV, the suspended students could be charged with criminal use of a noxious substance if they fail to complete a justice program.

Mountain View firefighters decontaminated the building before students returned inside.

Niwot is between Boulder and Longmont.

MONTANA

Judge blocks further moves of park bison

BILLINGS | A Montana judge granted a restraining order that blocks further relocations of Yellowstone National Park bison after objections from ranchers and property rights groups.

The order was issued Thursday after Gov. Brian Schweitzer's administration transferred 62 Yellowstone bison to the Fort Peck Reservation this week.

The ruling presents another stumbling block in efforts by tribes and agencies to reintroduce bison to parts of their former range.

Half of the Fort Peck animals were to be transported from a holding pen in coming months to the Fort Belknap Reservation, and dozens more are being held temporarily on Ted Turner's ranch near Bozeman.

The judge blocked those transfers, at least for now, but turned down a request to return the animals to the Yellowstone area and set a hearing for April 11.

NEW JERSEY

Cop killer sentenced to life without parole

TOMS RIVER | A 20-year-old New Jersey man convicted of killing a Lakewood police officer has been sentenced to life in prison.

Jahmell Crockam appeared Thursday before a judge in Ocean County.

Because Crockam was convicted of murdering Patrolman Christopher Matlosz, authorities said, the law requires a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

A jury convicted Crockam of walking up to the officer's police cruiser in January 2011 and shooting him three times at point-blank range.

A witness in his trial testified that Crockam, who had outstanding arrest warrants, vowed that he would kill a police officer before he would allow himself to be arrested.

NEW YORK

Rev. Sharpton's mother dies at age 87

NEW YORK | The 87-year-old mother of the Rev. Al Sharpton has died.

His spokeswoman said Ada Sharpton died early Thursday in Dothan, Ala., after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Rachel Noerdlinger said Mr. Sharpton will fly to Alabama to make arrangements for his mother's funeral after attending a rally Thursday evening in Sanford, Fla., for Trayvon Martin.

Martin is a black teenager who was fatally shot by a Hispanic neighborhood watch captain in Florida. His parents attended a march for their son in New York City on Wednesday.

Ms. Noerdlinger said Mr. Sharpton learned of his mother's death while boarding the flight to Florida on Thursday morning. He heads the National Action Network, a civil rights organization based in New York City.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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