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DEA and Federal Prosecutors Join Prince Death Inquiry, Adding to Painkiller Speculation

Prince died one day before he was scheduled to meet a specialist in addiction and pain management, and Percocet was reportedly found on his body.
May 4, 2016, 9:42pm
Photo by Balazs Mohai/EPA

Federal prosecutors in Minnesota and the Drug Enforcement Administration have joined the investigation into Prince's death, adding to speculation that the music legend's demise was linked to prescription painkillers.

"The US Attorney's Office and DEA are joining the Carver County Sheriff's investigation," a spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office in Minnesota said in a statement to VICE News. "The DEA and US Attorney's Office are able to augment this local investigation with federal resources and expertise about prescription drug diversion. While this remains an ongoing investigation, we will have no further comment."

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Earlier on Wednesday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Prince died one day before he was scheduled to meet a specialist in addiction and pain management. California doctor Howard Kornfeld was first contacted by Prince representatives on April 20, Kornfeld's attorney William Mauzy informed reporters at a news conference, confirming the local news report. The lawyer said the doctor was on a "life-saving mission."

Prince was found dead on April 21 at age 57 at his home-studio complex Paisley Park in a Minneapolis suburb. Multiple media reports have cited law enforcement sources as saying the prescription pain medication Percocet, a combination of acetaminophen and the opioid oxycodone, was found on his body and in his home.

Related: The CDC Just Told American Doctors to Rethink Pain Treatment and Opioid Addiction

Kornfeld, who runs Recovery Without Walls, a clinic in Mill Valley, California, had asked a Minnesota doctor to do an initial assessment on Prince on April 21, and planned to fly out the following day.

"Dr. Kornfeld was never able to meet Prince, never talked to Prince, and was sadly not able to arrive on time to help Prince," Mauzy said. "He wishes he had had the opportunity to meet with him and treat him along with a local Minnesota doctor."

Mauzy said Kornfeld's son, Andrew Kornfeld, who is a staff member of his California clinic, had arrived at Paisley Park on the morning of April 21 to initiate contact with Prince and talk about a treatment program.

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When Andrew Kornfeld arrived, Prince was not available, Mauzy said. A staff member found Prince unconscious in an elevator and Andrew Kornfeld called 911.

He was interviewed by Carver County sheriff's officials later that morning and returned to California that night, the attorney said.

Related: As the US Is Awash in Painkillers, the Developing World Is in Dire Need of Them

Medication used in pain management and addiction were found in Andrew Kornfeld's backpack on the scene, Mauzy said, including the drug buprenorphine, which reduces opioid cravings. Mauzy emphasized that no pills or medication were administered to Prince by the doctor or his son.

Mauzy said he is concerned that officials may charge Andrew Kornfeld,, but he believes a good Samaritan law will give him immunity. Mauzy did not elaborate on possible charges and did not respond to a request for comment.

Prince's cause of death remains undetermined and it could be weeks before results are released from an autopsy. Police have said they found no signs of suicide or obvious trauma in Prince's death.

Prince's reps have said the singer had a nasty case of the flu, and medical experts previously told VICE News that painkillers could have worsened his condition.

Related: Reports Link Painkillers to Prince's Death, But Experts Say Flu Could Have Been a Factor

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