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by Cyndi Hoelzle

February 19, 2013

Mindy McCready, RIP

by Cyndi Hoelzle  |  February 19, 2013

It was a sad end to a life that burned bright, fast and fiery. Country singer Mindy McCready, 37, was found dead on her front porch in Arkansas Sunday night from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

She was a teenager when she moved from Florida to Nashville to make it big, and by 18 she seemed on top of the world. Her debut album, 1996's Ten Thousand Angels, sold more than 2 million copies, led by the playful single "Guys Do It All the Time." The song was a huge hit, and notable in the pre-Taylor Swift era for being a young woman's anthem.

McCready was beautiful, fun and fun-loving, charming and seemingly charmed. She was even going to marry Superman! (Well, OK, Lois and Clark's Dean Cain, to whom she was engaged in 1997.) Yet behind the bubbly girl who would bake cookies for country-radio personnel was a soul suffering from addiction and mental illness. It wasn't long before her stormy life became the whole story, overshadowing her music.

In the years following her first hits, McCready was busted for abusing Oxycontin and arrested for drunk driving, logging jail time and violating her parole too many times to count. She traded on her celebrity to get everything from drugs to boats. Each time it seemed like it couldn't get worse, it did: She was beaten and choked by her ex-boyfriend, who wound up charged with attempted murder; a few months after she testified against him, she overdosed twice, the second time while pregnant with his child.

In 2010, she appeared on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, attempting to get clean and sober. On the reality show, she performed a song from her first album in more than eight years, I'm Still Here. "When I was writing this song, I was in jail -- I never knew it, but I was writing for all of you," she said tearfully, dedicating it to those on the show with her. It was the first time she addressed her troubles in song, to poignant effect:

There was darkness, all around me
There were times I was sure I was drowning
There were people who tried to reach me
But no matter how they loved me, I kept sinking

The same year she returned to music, she also starred in a porn video called Mindy McCready: Baseball Mistress, in which she talked about her alleged 10-year affair with baseball superstar Roger Clemens, which she said started when she was just 16 years old.

McCready gave birth to her first son in March 2006; her mother was granted custody early on. After arguments with her mom culminated in battery charges, McCready was granted only supervised visitation. In 2011, pregnant again, she was allowed to spend Thanksgiving with her son in Nashville, but she never returned him; a judge ruled it a parental abduction. The ensuing manhunt ended when police found her in Arkansas, hiding in a closet, clutching her son.

There has been speculation that the character of Juliette Barnes (played by Hayden Panettiere) on the ABC show Nashville is based on the singer; McCready's real life was so tumultuous and tragic that it would make an almost implausible script. Last month came news that the father of her youngest boy, born in April 2012, was found dead from an apparent suicide, also a gunshot wound. The case is still under investigation.

The singer herself had attempted suicide several times before, both by overdosing and slitting her wrists. Each time she was saved and seemed to come back fighting. Yet for all her arrests, she never did receive the help she needed to battle her addictions and mental illness. "You know what? I don't think I'm ever going to be one of those people that has a normal, quiet existence," she told ABC Radio in 2010. "I've been chosen for some reason to be bigger and larger than life in every way. Negative and positive."

Here's hoping that 10 thousand angels are watching out for her tonight, and especially for the two young boys she left behind.

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