The 21-year-old's circle includes a friend who died of a heroin overdose and two men charged with murder

By K.C. Baker
February 21, 2015 12:05 PM
Credit: AKM-GSI

As Bobbi Kristina Brown remains hospitalized after being found unconscious in her bathtub on Jan. 31, troubling stories are emerging about the friends she surrounded herself with before.

After her mother Whitney Houston died in 2012, Brown had trouble coping with the legend’s death, turning to boyfriend Nick Gordon and close friends to help her deal with her monumental loss, sources tell PEOPLE. But some are now wondering about the people she spent time with – and the influence they had on the emotionally fragile 21-year-old.

Brown “is plagued by demons,” a source close to the family told PEOPLE last month. “She surrounds herself with bad influences and she can’t get beyond them.” Multiple sources have told PEOPLE that she used heroin, cocaine and Xanax in recent months.

A Friend’s Overdose Death

Last March, one of Brown’s closest friends, Chelsea Bennett, 20, died of a heroin overdose. Three men were indicted in connection to her death. Cory Ben-Hanania, 20, is awaiting trial on charges of felony murder, distribution of heroin and concealing a death after police found Bennett in his home – 10 hours after she passed out, according to WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Sebastian Andrade and Kevin McCaffrey also face charges related to Bennett’s death, according to court records. Andrade has been charged with concealing a death. McCaffrey has also been charged with murder.

Police said in a news conference in July that McCaffrey sold the heroin to Andrade and that Ben-Hanania injected Bennett with it after convincing her to try it.

“The disturbing fact in this case, besides the fact that the victim passed away, is almost 10 hours went by before we were even contacted,” said Alpharetta police spokesman George Gordon. “They literally left her on the floor of that residence.” Ben-Hanania’s attorney, J. Thomas Salata, told WSB-TV that Bennett was his client’s best friend and that his client is innocent.

All three men are awaiting trial, which is expected to begin in early March.

Bennett wasn’t the only one of Bobbi Kristina’s friends to run afoul of drugs. Maxwell Byron Lomas, 24, who along with Nick Gordon found her in the tub and called 911, was arrested last month on drug charges. According to Fulton County Jail records, he was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of Alprazolam or Xanax and possession of a firearm or knife during commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies. He was released on bond.

What About Nick Gordon?

Brown’s family had reservations about Gordon, who she called her husband, even though her father’s lawyer says they never married.

Her grandmother, Cissy Houston, wrote an open letter to Bobbi Kristina in 2013, relaying her concerns about her relationship with Gordon. “All I want for you is your good health and your happiness,” Houston wrote. “I want you to have a good life that you can be proud of. Do I want you to get married in the near future? No, I don’t. I think you’re too young and I wish you’d wait. But that’s because I’m Grandma.”

Last April, Marion “Pat” Houston – whose husband is Whitney’s brother Gary and who serves as the executor of the trust fund Whitney set up for her daughter – obtained a restraining order against Gordon after alleging he made threatening statements about her and her family.

“Nick knew that a lot of the family weren’t fans of his; he sort of kept her away from some of her family members because he didn’t want us to say bad things about him to [Brown],” a source close to the family told PEOPLE last month. “It’s not exactly his fault. A lot of people in the family, like Cissy, didn’t give him a chance. Everyone had a preconceived notion about him, and it wasn’t always fair.”

Gordon has stayed away from the hospital in recent days. “He has respected his family’s wishes,” his lawyer Randy Kessler told PEOPLE. “But he desperately wants to be with the one he loves and continues to hope that his request will be granted.”

Georgia police confirmed that they have launched a criminal investigation into the events that led to Bobbi Kristina’s being found unconscious.

Another Tragic Loss

Sadly, Brown was surrounded by death, even though she was just starting to carve a life out for herself. Five months after she lost her best friend to a heroin overdose, another close friend of her died at age 21. According to RadarOnline, Shelby Derrington died last August from bleeding on the brain from a concussion she suffered in a car accident a year before.

Brown paid tribute to her late friend by writing on Twitter, JammN in myhouse, Undies;Tshirt,Combats sanginn&dancin like theres no2moro(:Enjoy YOURLife. Its shorter then YoudEVERthink … RIPMyShelbyD!

Reporting by STEVE HELLING

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