Carter Family Woes: The Music Clan's Troubled History

The Carter family has struggled with financial woes, divorce and addiction

01 of 21

January 2002: Nick Carter is arrested for nightclub brawl

Nick Carter. Zuffante/Getty Images

Nick Carter was arrested in a nightclub in Tampa, Fla., in 2002 when he was 21 years old, for refusing to leave after being ordered to do so by local police following a loud argument with an unidentified woman. The incident occurred in the early hours of Jan. 2 at Pop City. Police said that before his arrest, they had instructed Carter to quiet down more than 10 times without compliance. They then issued an ultimatum for him to "leave by the count of three."

When Carter did not heed their order, he was handcuffed, placed in a police car and booked on a misdemeanor count of resisting/opposing a law enforcement officer without violence.

Speaking later on MTV's Total Request Live (TRL), Carter said he "did not do anything wrong."

"I can't get too into it," Carter told TRL host Carson Daly, " ... I know that for a fact ... If I disrespected a cop in any way, I, you know, apologize."

02 of 21

2003-2006: Money squabbles, divorce and battery plague the Carter family

Bob and Jane Carter. Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

In 2003, Aaron Carter alleged that his mother, Jane, had removed more than $100,000 from his bank account without permission. Following her split with family patriarch Bob the following year, Jane was arrested and charged with battery for beating up his girlfriend (and future wife), Ginger Elrod.

According to a report filed by Florida's Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Jane used a rock to break a window and entered her estranged husband's home in the Florida Keys. She then allegedly made her way to the bedroom where Bob and Elrod were sleeping. The report said that Jane dragged Elrod out of bed by her hair and hit her with a remote control. The Miami Herald quoted Bob saying that Elrod will not press charges but that "restraining orders are in place."

In 2006, brothers Aaron and Nick faced off in a fistfight before the premiere of their reality show, House of Carters.

"We've had some very tough times," Bob told PEOPLE in 2008. "There's a lot of pitfalls to growing up in the public eye." He also claimed that Aaron's managers were "trying to convince him that I'm the reason he's going broke. It's not true; I don't live off Aaron's money."

Nick's views on his family weren't much rosier. In his 2013 memoir Facing the Music and Living to Talk About It, he explained that his relationship with his family was "toxic."

03 of 21

March 2005: Nick Carter is arrested for drunk driving

Nick Carter. Scott Gries/Getty Images

Nick was arrested in Huntington Beach, Calif., on March 5, 2005, on charges of drunk driving. The then-25-year-old was reportedly with friends at a local restaurant when police pulled him over around 7:30 p.m. After failing a field sobriety test, he was booked on a misdemeanor DUI charge and released several hours later.

"Nick Carter deeply regrets the current situation," a representative for the singer said in a statement. "He is on doctor prescribed medication and was unaware of its interaction possibilities."

Nick later pleaded not guilty to the DUI-related charges and did not appear in court. The Backstreet Boys singer was ordered to pay $1,200 in fines and into a three-month alcohol treatment program, with three years probation.

04 of 21

September 2006: Aaron Carter is briefly engaged to a 'Playboy' model

Kari Ann Peniche and Aaron Carter. Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images

Aaron, then 18, proposed to Playboy model Kari Ann Peniche on stage at Las Vegas' Palms Casino Resort on Sept. 16, 2006, in front of a crowd of 200 gathered for the Playboy Comedy Tour. However, less than a week later, they made a "mutual decision" to call it off.

"He's really young and just needs to get his act together," Peniche told PEOPLE at the time. "I don't know what's going on right now. We're friends, and maybe we'll get back together sometime. We haven't ruled out getting back together."

Carter's rep confirmed the split, telling PEOPLE, "He decided he had made a mistake. He's young and got caught up in the moment. He hopes they can be friends."

Three months later, he celebrated his 19th birthday on the arm of Kaci Brown, a singer who opened for the Backstreet Boys on their 2005 summer tour.

"Now, I'm in a great relationship. I've only known her for, like, seven days, but I have a connection with her that's like nothing else I've ever experienced," Aaron told PEOPLE. "It's really amazing."

However, they split the following April.

05 of 21

2008: Nick Carter is diagnosed with cardiomyopathy

Nick Carter.

In his memoir, Nick claimed he had his first drink at just 2 years old, at the bar owned and operated by his parents and grandparents. He struggled with substance abuse throughout the 2000s, resulting in numerous legal troubles and health problems. His weight ballooned to 224 lbs., and he made an appointment with a cardiologist after experiencing chest discomfort and fatigue during the Backstreet Boys' 2008 European tour.

The years of abusing his body led to a shocking diagnosis: cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle that, in extreme cases, can require a transplant or lead to sudden death.

The night before his test results were due back, Nick fell into a familiar routine.

"I went out and just went nuts," he told PEOPLE in 2009. "I drank so much, and I did a bunch of blow. I felt like I was trying to kill myself — because I didn't want to get the results."

Faced with the realization that his life depended on getting sober, Nick made a decision.

"I don't want to die," he said. "I don't want to be that person people read about and think, 'That's sad that he couldn't stop it and killed himself.'"

He has since gotten clean and slimmed down to a healthy weight.

06 of 21

February 2008: Aaron Carter is arrested for marijuana possession

Aaron Carter Hand Print Ceremony
Aaron Carter. Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Having been pulled over for speeding on I-10 in Kimble County, Texas, police arrested Aaron on Feb. 21, 2008, after finding at least two ounces of marijuana in his vehicle, reported TMZ.

"On his way to Florida bringing his two dogs to live on a large ranch, Aaron Carter was detained today in Texas by a trooper for exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph," Carter's manager said in a statement. "A search revealed a small amount of marijuana, a misdemeanor in this state. He is posting bail and will return to Los Angeles. He sincerely regrets any embarrassment this caused to his family, friends and fans."

His father, Bob, spoke to PEOPLE soon after the arrest. "I'm just totally floored by this. Other people suspected he had a problem, but I denied it and didn't believe it. But now I feel hurt and betrayed because I see that everything wasn't what I thought it was."

He hoped the arrest would serve as a wake-up call to the star. "Aaron has always thought he was invincible," Bob said. "Sometimes, it takes a knock in the head to get people back on track. I hope that's what happens here."

07 of 21

January 2011: Aaron Carter enters rehab

Aaron Carter. Source: Aaron Carter/Twitter

In January 2011, Aaron's manager, Johnny Wright, announced that the singer had checked into the Betty Ford Center in Ranch Mirage, Calif., "to heal some emotional and spiritual issues he was dealing with."

Soon after entering the facility, Aaron shared a message to his fans in a now-deleted Twitter post. "The main thing in life is not to be afraid of being human."

On Feb. 10, 2011, he was released after completing a month-long stay.

08 of 21

January 2012: Leslie Carter dies of apparent drug overdose

Leslie and Aaron Carter. Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Nick and Aaron's sister, Leslie, a 25-year-old mother of one, was found unresponsive in their father's home in Mayville, N.Y., on Jan. 31, 2012. She was taken to a local hospital in nearby Westfield, where she was pronounced dead on arrival at 4:59 p.m. It was later revealed that Leslie suffered an overdose. Prescription medications like Olanzapine, Cyclobenzaprine (muscle relaxer) and Alprazolam (Xanax) were found near her body.

The news was especially heartbreaking for Aaron, who just days before had offered to pay for her substance abuse treatment.

"I wasn't really making that much money. Fortunately, I had just hit my bonus. I got $10,000 the week before Leslie died, and I actually had reached out to her two weeks before that and said, 'I'm going to get you the money to go to rehab,'" Aaron said in 2016 on Oprah: Where Are They Now? "She wanted it."

Brother Nick did not attend Leslie's funeral due to the family feuding.

"I wanted to be at my sister's funeral, but my family has always had a complicated dynamic," Nick told E! News.

Nick dedicated an encore version of "Falling Down" to Leslie during a performance on Feb. 2, 2012, at New York City's Irving Plaza.

09 of 21

November 2013: Aaron Carter files for bankruptcy

aaron carter
Aaron Carter.

On Nov. 22, 2013, news broke that Aaron Carter filed a bankruptcy petition to cover more than $3.5 million worth of debt, including $30,000 worth of credit card bills. However, his publicist at the time, Steve Honig, had an optimistic take on the matter.

"This is not a negative thing," he told CNN. "It's actually very positive. It's him doing what he needs to do to move forward."

His debts included $1.3 million in back taxes from his 2003 income, when he was a 16-year-old pop star. The matter — and the bills — were resolved in 2014.

10 of 21

May 2017: Family patriarch Bob Carter dies

The Carter family. Tom Osterhoudt/AP

Bob died on May 16, 2017, of an apparent heart attack in Florida at the age of 65. Despite the years of familial fighting, both Nick and Aaron shared their grief on social media.

"I am heartbroken to share the news that our father, Robert, passed away last night…" Nick tweeted the following morning. "While we learn more about the cause of death, and begin the grieving process, we ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time."

Aaron tweeted a photo of the two, writing, "My heart is completely shattered. I'm in shock and I loved my dad so much. #RIP DADDY I Love You."

In an Instagram post, he added, "My heart is broken. We are so hurt we lost you poppa way too soon. You were never human to me, you were always my real life super hero."

Nick and Aaron have two additional siblings — sisters Angel and Bobbie Jean.

"[Aaron] had such a dysfunctional relationship with both parents, but something about losing his dad really threw him," an insider source told PEOPLE in 2022. "That's when I saw him really start to spiral."

11 of 21

July 2017: Aaron Carter is arrested for alleged DUI and drug possession

Aaron Carter. Habersham County Sheriff's Office via AP

The then-29-year-old was pulled over at about 9 p.m. on July 15, 2017, in Habersham County, Georgia, about 90 miles north of Atlanta, PEOPLE confirmed. He was charged with driving under the influence, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and possession of drug-related objects, the Habersham County Sheriff's Office confirmed to PEOPLE.

TMZ reported that he refused to undergo a breathalyzer and drug test to determine whether he was driving under the influence. He was booked on a $4,610 bond.

His then-girlfriend, Madison Parker, was in the car with him and arrested, police told PEOPLE. She was charged with possession of marijuana, obstruction of law enforcement officers and possession of drug-related objects, according to the sheriff's office.

Aaron claimed he was innocent of all charges and targeted by police because he was famous. According to his statement, he was at an AutoZone in Georgia to fix a tire that was out of alignment on his car when police officers arrested him "with aggression." He added that he has a license for medical marijuana for his anxiety.

Nick shared a message to his younger brother on Twitter following the incident. "To my brother: I love u no matter what & if u feel the need to reach for help, I am here and willing to help you get better. Family isn't always easy, [but] we're all here for you."

Aaron made it clear that he didn't appreciate his brother addressing the matter publicly on Twitter by responding with his own tweet on July 16.

"If my own blood truly cared about my well-being, why wouldn't he call me directly and have a conversation instead of making this about him through a very public forum?" he said in the statement. "That's not cool at all to use me for his PR and kick me while I am down. I love my family despite it through thick and thin."

Nick seemingly responded to the message by retweeting a post from his wife, Lauren, which read, "Hey @aaroncarter have @itsmadisonp text me your new number since you changed it again!"

Aaron's rep Jonathan Ward told PEOPLE Aaron was reachable by his family — "whom he loves" — at any time.

"Nick and Lauren have his number — it hasn't changed. They last spoke on July 6," Ward told PEOPLE exclusively. "He doesn't feel it was proper ... what happened. You don't reach out through Twitter."

12 of 21

August 2017: Aaron Carter comes out as bisexual

Aaron Carter. Vivien Killilea/WireImage/Getty Images

In a lengthy public letter posted to Twitter on Aug. 5, 2017, Aaron revealed that he was bisexual.

"I grew up in this entertainment industry at a very young age, and when I was around 13 years old, I started to find boys and girls attractive," he wrote.

As a teenager, he famously had relationships with Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff, but at 17 years old, he "had an experience with a male" that he "had an attraction to," "worked with" and "grew up with."

He completed the note by affirming his love of making music, writing, "To me, music has always been my temple. Music will ALWAYS be what transcends us and myself. The studio has always been my safe haven. But the ultimate goal for me is to be satisfied. I never want to be a figure of disappointment. The best quote to sum 'I've never felt as though I didn't belong, I just acted as though I did.' — Boy George."

Then, in March 2018, he said that his statement regarding his sexuality was "misconstrued."

"It was more so just a story that happened when I was, like, 17 with somebody. And I can find men and women attractive, but when it comes down to it, I think it was a little misconstrued," Aaron said during a Hollywood Life podcast. "I see myself being with a woman and having kids. I want to have a family."

He clarified, "I keep telling people that. I don't want it to be misconstrued too much just because I was open about a story."

13 of 21

August 2017: Aaron Carter and girlfriend Madison Parker split

Madison Parker and Aaron Carter. Allen Berezovsky/Getty Image

Less than a day after Aaron opened up about his bisexuality on social media, news broke that he and Parker ended their relationship.

"Aaron and Madison love each other and respect one another dearly," Carter's rep told PEOPLE in a statement. "It was a mutual decision, and Aaron's personal statement released speaks for itself. Now, back to the music."

A source told Entertainment Tonight that the split was "very amicable" and happened the prior week.

14 of 21

September 2017: Aaron Carter enters rehab (again)

Aaron Carter.

After two months of ups and downs, Aaron checked into rehab following several police welfare checks at his Florida home in September 2017.

"Aaron has decided to enter a facility to improve his health and work on his overall wellness," Steve Honig, the singer's rep, told PEOPLE. "He is going to do this privately and focus all his attention on being the best person and performer possible. He is grateful for the support and love from his fans and looks forward to coming back stronger than ever before."

"Only I can change my life," Aaron shared on Twitter. "No one can do it for me."

15 of 21

November 2017: Nick Carter is accused of rape by singer Melissa Schuman

Nick Carter and Melissa Schuman. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty; Matthew Simmons/Getty

Nick was accused of rape by former Dream singer Melissa Schuman in November 2017.

Schuman detailed the alleged incident on her blog earlier in the month, alleging that Carter had raped her when she was 18 and he was 22.

Carter responded to the allegations in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE on Nov. 22, 2017.

"I am shocked and saddened by Ms. Schuman's accusations. Melissa never expressed to me while we were together or at any time since that anything we did was not consensual. We went on to record a song and perform together, and I was always respectful and supportive of Melissa both personally and professionally," the Backstreet Boy said.

"This is the first that I am hearing about these accusations, nearly two decades later. It is contrary to my nature and everything I hold dear to intentionally cause someone discomfort or harm."

Weeks after her testimony, Schuman announced she'd forgiven Nick.

"I did this for me because I needed this healing, and I also came forward because I want to inspire … other people who have been assaulted to come forward and know that they have a voice."

16 of 21

September 2018: Sexual assault charges against Nick Carter are dropped

Nick Carter. Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

Nick Carter was not prosecuted for the alleged sexual assault.

In September 2018, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office declined the Backstreet Boys singer's case due to the 10-year limitations period expiring.

"The reporting party alleged that in 2003, she was the victim of a sexual assault perpetrated by the suspect in his apartment. The victim was 18 years old at the time of the assault. The statute of limitations expired in 2013. Therefore, an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence is not warranted, and the matter is declined," a comment in the task force declination obtained by PEOPLE stated.

Following the decision, Carter's attorney Michael Holtz said: "Nick Carter was cleared today when the L.A. County District Attorney's Office rejected the charges against him. Nick has denied these allegations ever since he first learned of them last year and was confident the District Attorney would conclude that there was no basis to pursue charges against him. He is happy to put this matter behind him."

Schuman also responded to Carter's charges being dropped, explaining that regardless of the decision, "speaking out was the best thing" she could have ever done for herself.

17 of 21

September 2019: Aaron Carter opens up about his mental health struggles

Aaron Carter and his mom on the Doctors
Aaron Carter and his mother.

On a September 2019 episode of The Doctors, Aaron got candid about his mental health struggles.

"The official diagnosis is that I suffer from multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia, acute anxiety; I'm manic depressive," Carter said. "I'm prescribed to Xanax, Seroquel, gabapentin, hydroxyzine, trazodone [and] omeprazole."

Carter also held up a large bag of prescription drugs for host Dr. Travis Stork and co-host Dr. Judy Ho, giving viewers a scale of how many medications he has to take.

"This is my reality … hi," he said. "I have nothing to hide."

Carter also used his time on the show to urge his mother to get help for her drinking addiction. He shared that when he was last on the show two years ago, "the doctors saved [his] life," and he now "wants that for his mom."

18 of 21

September 2019: Aaron Carter comes clean about his huffing addiction

Aaron Carter
Aaron Carter. The Doctors/Youtube

During part two of his appearance on The Doctors, Aaron revealed for the very first time that he was addicted to huffing and that his late sister Leslie was the one who introduced it to him.

"Started when I was about 16," he said, noting that he didn't use it until he was about 23, right after competing on Dancing with the Stars.

He continued, "I started going to Staples and Office Depot and different places, buying it with cash so it wouldn't be reported on receipts or anything like that, so no one could trace me."

"I was huffing because I was really f------ stupid and sad, but this is really no excuse," he admitted. "I was huffing because I'm a drug addict."

Carter went on to share that the last time he huffed was after he first went to rehab in 2017 — and that after he "relapsed immediately" he drove back to seek additional treatment.

"That's my truth," he said before adding that he's "doing amazing."

19 of 21

September 2019: Nick Carter files a restraining order against brother Aaron Carter

Nick Carter and Aaron carter
Nick (left) and Aaron Carter. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

On Sept. 17, 2019, Nick tweeted that he and his sister Angel had filed a restraining order against their brother, Aaron, claiming that he had threatened to kill Nick's "pregnant wife and unborn child."

"After careful consideration, my sister Angel and I regret that we were required to seek a restraining order against our brother Aaron today," he wrote on Twitter.

Nick said he and his sister made the decision due to Aaron's "increasingly alarming behavior and his recent confession that he harbors thoughts and intentions of killing my pregnant wife and unborn child."

"We were left with no choice but to take every measure possible to protect ourselves and our family," Nick added.

The star shared that he still loves Aaron and hopes "he gets the proper treatment he needs before any harm comes to himself or anyone else."

Aaron reacted to the restraining order on Twitter the same day, sharing, "So my brother just got a restraining order against me."

"And I was just served lol."

"Take care. @NickCarter we're done for life," Aaron continued. "I haven't seen him in four years. And I don't intend to."

Aaron continued: "I am astounded at the accusations being made against me, and I do not wish harm to anyone, especially my family."

He later returned to Twitter to also accuse Nick of being violent with several women and revealed that he had loaned Nick $100,000 "when he was almost broke, and this is the thank you."

A representative for Nick did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment regarding the allegations.

20 of 21

November 2022: Aaron Carter is found dead at 34

Aaron Carter Life in Pictures - Aaron Carter and Melanie Martin visit 'The Kings Of Hustler Male Revue'
Arlene Richie/Shutterstock

On Nov. 5, 2022, the 34-year-old former child pop star was found dead in his bathtub at his Lancaster, Calif., home.

Police sources told PEOPLE that there were prescription pills and drug paraphernalia in his bedroom, however, the cause of death has yet to be determined.

Shortly after the news broke, Aaron's twin sister Angel honored her brother on Instagram, writing, "I know you're at peace now. I will carry you with me until the day I die and get to see you again. 💔."

Nick also mourned the loss of Aaron, posting several childhood photos of them together on Instagram and writing an emotional caption: "Sometimes we want to blame someone or something for a loss, but the truth is that addiction and mental illness is the real villain here. I will miss my brother more than anyone will ever know. I love you Chizz. Now you can finally have the peace you could never find here on earth….God, please take care of my baby brother."

21 of 21

December 2022: Nick Carter is sued for sexual battery over alleged 2001 incident

Singer Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys attends the unveiling of Marvel's Hulkbuster armor wax figure at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas at The Venetian Las Vegas on February 28, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nick Carter. Gabe Ginsberg/Getty

In December 2022, Nick was sued for sexual battery by a woman who claimed the singer assaulted her when she was 17 after a Backstreet Boys concert in 2001.

Shannon Ruth, who has autism and cerebral palsy, alleged Nick, then 21, sexually assaulted her on his tour bus over two decades ago.

Documents obtained by PEOPLE stated that Ruth claimed she was a virgin and forced to perform oral sex on the musician, resulting in her allegedly contracting HPV.

Nick's attorney, Holtz, wrote in a statement sent to PEOPLE, "This claim about an incident that supposedly took place more than 20 years ago is not only legally meritless but also entirely untrue."

Following the rape allegations, ABC canceled the Backstreet Boys' Christmas special, A Very Backstreet Holiday. The concert special was set to feature Carter and bandmates Kevin Richardson, AJ McLean, Brian Littrell and Howie Dorough, plus other celebs like Seth Rogen, Meghan Trainor, Rob Riggle and Nikki Glaser.

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