Much like the songs she sang, Mindy McCready's life was full of heartbreak. On Feb. 17, McCready a major country star in the late '90s was discovered on her porch in Heber Springs, Ark., dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, marking the end point of a truly tragic fall from grace.
Born Malinda Gayle McCready in Fort Myers, Fla., she left behind a troubled childhood and by 18 was pursuing a music career in Nashville. There, she met producer (and later boyfriend) David Malloy, who steered her 1996 debut, Ten Thousand Angels which went double platinum, spawned three top 10 hits, and put McCready on the map alongside the likes of Shania Twain and Faith Hill. ''I thought there was something really memorable about her voice,'' Malloy once told EW. ''And as a producer, what you look for is that [sound] that you'll remember the next day.... She had that quality.''
Her second album went gold, but it failed to score any major singles, and her third and fourth sold even less. In 2004 she began a tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship with aspiring country singer Billy McKnight, and was arrested for trying to buy OxyContin with a fake prescription. In 2005 McKnight was charged with attempted murder after allegedly beating McCready, though in court she begged for leniency (''It's just sickening that I did that,'' she told EW in an extensive 2009 interview); he served 30 days on a misdemeanor assault charge. The same year she attempted suicide twice.
McCready grabbed headlines again in '08 with the revelation that she had carried on a 10-year affair with baseball legend Roger Clemens, beginning when she was just 15. (Clemens acknowledged a friendship but denied that their relationship was sexual.) The next year she appeared on VH1's Celebrity Rehab for alcohol and substance-abuse issues, though she insisted that her true addiction was codependence.
And her troubles continued to mount: a long custody battle with McKnight over their son, Zander, 6; the apparent suicide of record producer David Wilson, the father of her now-10-month-old son, Zayne, at her home this past January; the court-ordered transfer of both children to foster care (where they remained at press time). ''I'll be damned if I have suffered in vain,'' she told EW during that 2009 interview. ''I am going to make something good from all of this.'' Sadly, she never got the chance. (Reporting by Whitney Pastorek and Grady Smith)