The West

Yellow crime-scene tape blocks off the front of a home in Heber Springs, where country singer Mindy McCready was found dead. Picture: AP

Mindy McCready threatened suicide after losing custody of her sons earlier this month, yet she was allowed to leave a court-ordered drug-rehabilitation program just days before she apparently killed herself at her Arkansas home, her ex-boyfriend said on Monday.

Billy McKnight, who was in a long, stormy relationship with McCready and is the father of her oldest child, Zander, said the 37-year-old mother of two stayed in the substance-abuse treatment centre for about 18 hours before she was allowed to walk free.

McCready died Sunday at her home in Heber Springs, a vacation community about 100km north of Little Rock. She was found dead on the front porch, where her long-time boyfriend, musician David Wilson, died last month of a gunshot wound to the head. Authorities are investigating both deaths as suicides but haven't determined an official cause of death.

McKnight told The Associated Press during a phone interview from Tampa, Florida, that McCready and Wilson, the father of her youngest son, Zayne, were recently engaged. He wondered how she was allowed to go free, given all the turmoil in her life.

"That was a big mistake on the part of whoever released her," McKnight said.

"She was in a terrible state of mind. She doesn't perform any more. She wasn't working. She has two kids and her fiance was just killed.

"There's no way she should be out by herself in a lonely house with nothing but booze and pills. That was a really, really bad mistake, and the end result is tragic."

Appearing on the US' Today show on Monday to discuss the events, McKnight said he wasn't surprised about the news.

"As sad as it is, it didn't come as a major shock," he said. "She's just been battling demons for so long.

"I was around her when she attempted suicide twice, so I knew it was in her."

McCready had a well-publicised battle with addiction and is known to have attempted to take her own life on several occasions in the past. She and McKnight had a troubled relationship and he was arrested for her attempted murder after assaulting her in 2005.

She had been experiencing a fraught time of late, following the death of Wilson in January. His death is still being investigated by police, although it is thought he killed himself on the same porch where McCready's body was found.

Neighbours reported hearing two shots on Sunday afternoon when they called the Cleburne County Sheriff's Office. Authorities found Wilson's dog dead next to McCready's body at the home, where yellow crime-scene tape looped through a grove of pine trees and around the one-storey brick house on Monday afternoon.

The sheriff said McCready's two sons were safe. McKnight said the boys remained in foster care, where they were at the time of their mother's death.

McCready and Wilson have 10-month-old Zayne together and following Wilson's death both children were removed from McCready's custody and placed in foster care. The country singer was ordered to spend time in rehab to get help for mental health and alcohol issues after admitting turning to drink to help her deal with her grief.

"The demons that she hasn't beaten were there," McKnight said.

"I feel for her mother and her family and especially my son. He needs to come home."

McKnight said he is working to get Zander back but at the moment does not know what will happen to Zayne.

"He (Zander) shouldn't have been taken from me to begin with.

"He has a happy home here (in Florida). I can provide for him. It's just been a really big mess and enough is enough. He's up there, all alone. He has no family in Arkansas. He has plenty of family who love him here."

McKnight does not know what the future holds for Zayne: "I don't know what is going to happen to Zayne.

"I would like to keep those boys, being brothers, together and try to turn my son's life around. He has had a rough first six years. He deserves better than this and my heart is broken for him right now. I'm very worried."

Earlier this month, McCready was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric unit to treat mental health issues and McKnight fears she may have been released too soon.

"Perhaps staying in there and grieving . . . over the death of her fiance, could have calmed her down.

"She would have had to probably stay in somewhere for quite a long time until she really healed."

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

The West Australian

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