LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson’s family gathered at his parents’ suburban Los Angeles home on Saturday to make funeral arrangements for the troubled King of Pop amid reports that they are seeking a second, independent autopsy.
The entertainer’s father, Joseph, issued a statement calling his son’s death “one of the darkest moments of our lives” and urging fans not to despair.
Jackson’s body was returned to his family on Friday night after an examination by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office failed to determine what killed the 50-year-old entertainer, pending toxicology tests that were expected to take weeks.
Meanwhile a lawyer for Dr. Conrad Murray, who was at Jackson’s rented mansion in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles when he collapsed, said the physician had agreed to answer questions from police detectives.
“Dr. Murray intends to fully cooperate with investigators and law enforcement as they attempt to piece together what happened,” attorney Bill Stradley told Reuters in an interview.
“Contrary to what has been out there, Dr. Murray has been cooperating with authorities from the outset and will continue to do so,” Stradley said. “The impression that he has been hiding from authorities, that’s not correct.”
Murray was desperately trying to revive Jackson when paramedics arrived and he rode with the singer in an ambulance to the hospital where the pop star was pronounced dead.
Police have said they wanted to further question Murray, a Houston-based cardiologist, about the circumstances of Jackson’s death but had not been able to arrange an interview.
Murray’s silver Mercedes was towed from the home where Jackson died so detectives could search it for evidence and medication.
The celebrity website TMZ.com reported that a second autopsy was underway at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, on the orders of the Jackson family.
Speculation has centered on Jackson’s use of prescription drugs and reports that he was injected with the narcotic painkiller Demerol shortly before he went into cardiac arrest.
Coroner’s officials have said that with no outward signs of trauma to Jackson’s body or evidence of foul play, they would have to wait for the results of toxicology tests and other studies to establish a cause of death.
Few other details were released about the autopsy’s findings, but Fox News reported on its website that investigators had found his body to be healthier and stronger than they had expected, with some scarring on the face.
Moving van crews emptied the rental home of Jackson’s belongings, reportedly on the orders of his father, Joseph, who was concerned they would be stolen.
In his statement to fans, Joseph Jackson said: “In one of the darkest moments of our lives we find it hard to find the words appropriate to this sudden tragedy we all had to encounter.”
He added: “We miss Michael endlessly, our pain cannot be described in words. ... But please do not despair, because Michael will continue to live on in each and every one of you.”
Fans thronged outside the family home in suburban Encino, festooning a fence bordering the property with signs, balloons, flowers and stuffed animals.
“Michael was a flower of the world,” 48-year-old artist Karen Mack said as she laid two paintings devoted to her idol along the fence. “His strangeness was an uncomfortable factor but everything else made up for it.”
Facing a battered reputation and a mountain of debt that The Wall Street Journal reported ran to $500 million, Jackson spent the last two months of his life rehearsing for a series of London concerts that were seen as a make-or-break comeback for the man who dominated the pop charts in the 1980s.
Additional reporting by Laura Isensee and Dean Goodman, editing by Todd Eastham