HEBER SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Perhaps there was one heartbreak too many for Mindy McCready.
The former country star appears to have taken her own life Sunday afternoon in Heber Springs, Ark. Authorities say McCready died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the head and an autopsy is planned. She was 37, the mother of two young sons.
If confirmed, it was at least her fourth suicide attempt since 2005, ending a series of tumultuous public events that marked much of the singer's adult life.
Speaking to The Associated Press in 2010, McCready smiled wryly while talking about the string of issues she'd dealt with over the last half-decade.
"It is a giant whirlwind of chaos all the time," she said of her life. "I call my life a beautiful mess and organized chaos. It's just always been like that. My entire life things have been attracted to me and vice versa that turn into chaotic nightmares or I create the chaos myself. I think that's really the life of a celebrity, of a big, huge, giant personality."
This time it seems the whirlwind overwhelmed McCready.
Her death comes a month after that of David Wilson, her longtime boyfriend and the father of her youngest son. He is believed to have shot himself on the same porch of the home they shared in the small wooded community of large lakefront houses about 65 miles north of Little Rock, Ark., and his death also was investigated as a suicide.
It was the most difficult moment in a life full of them. McCready issued a statement last month lamenting his death. And she called him her soul mate and a caregiver to her sons in an interview with NBC's "Today" show.
"I just keep telling myself that the more suffering that I go through, the greater character I'll have," she said, according to a transcript of the interview.
Like so many times before, McCready showed a little toughness in the midst of a personal storm, again endearing herself to her fans. But as usual, the brave face for the camera hid a much more complicated internal struggle that surfaced publicly time and again over the last 10 years.
This time, along with her remembrances of finding Wilson as he lay dying, she also answered questions about whether they'd argued earlier that evening about an affair and if she'd shot him.
"Oh, my God," the "Today" transcript reads. "No. Oh, my God. No. He was my life. We were each other's life."
It's unclear what circumstances led to McCready taking her own life, but it appears she was struggling again with twin issues that have persisted for years — substance abuse and the custody of her children. She checked into court-ordered rehab and gave her children up to foster care earlier this month after her father asked a judge to intervene, saying she'd stopped taking care of herself and her sons and was abusing alcohol and prescription drugs.
It's not clear where her sons, 6-year-old Zander and infant Zayne, were Sunday.
A deputy stationed outside McCready's home Sunday night referred questions to the Cleburne County sheriff, who was unavailable. Yellow crime-scene tape cordoned off the front yard and a dark-colored pickup truck sat in the driveway.
News of McCready's death spread quickly Sunday night on Twitter, with major country stars paying their respects to the onetime Nashville darling.
"Too much tragedy to overcome. R.I.P Mindy McCready," wrote Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks.
And Carrie Underwood added: "I grew up listening to Mindy McCready...so sad for her family tonight. Many prayers are going out to them..."
Melinda Gayle McCready arrived in Nashville in 1994 still in her teens with tapes of her karaoke vocals and earned a recording contract with BNA Records. She had a few memorable moments professionally, scoring her first No. 1 hit almost immediately.
"Guys Do It All the Time," a self-assured dig at male chauvinism, endeared her to female fans in 1996. She also scored a hit with "Ten Thousand Angels," and her album of that title sold 2 million copies.
Beyond that, though, she's mostly remembered for a string of dramatic moments as she spent the next 15 years chasing another huge hit. Her problems included a custody battle with her mother over one of her sons, arrests, overdoses and discord in her love life.
She made headlines in April 2008 when she claimed a longtime relationship with baseball great Roger Clemens. Published reports at the time said she met the pitcher at a Florida karaoke bar when she was 15 and he was 28 and married. Clemens denied the relationship. A decade earlier she was engaged to actor Dean Cain, but the two never married.
She also had a turbulent relationship with Billy McKnight, a country singer who is the father of her oldest son. McKnight was arrested in 2005 on charges of attempted murder after authorities say he beat and choked her.
During this period she also pleaded guilty to obtaining the painkiller OxyContin fraudulently at a pharmacy and got probation. She violated the probation with a drunken driving arrest in May 2005, a few days