Carolyn Whigham, the owner of the New Jersey funeral home that was given the task of handling Houston‘s funeral services, has always claimed to know the name of the guilty party and even held a press conference urging the family to reveal the information to the public.
Well that apparently never happened and Whigham Funeral Home is tired of taking all the flack!
Now they’re finally pointing the finger at the “close friend” of Whitney’s who profited from selling her death photo…
According to Forbes, Raffles van Exel, who also uses the aliases of Raffles Benson and Raffles Dawson, attended the two private viewings of Whitney’s casket held at the Whigham Funeral Home.
The first viewing was on February 17, 2012, the Friday night before the memorial service. The second one was on Sunday morning before the burial.
Staff at the funeral home say they noticed van Exel right away. While he’s not actually a member of the Houston family, he traveled with them on the private plane from Los Angeles to New Jersey for Whitney’s homegoing services.
van Exel was the only non-family member who accompanied Pat Houston in her car to Whitney’s memorial and funeral and to the viewings.
According to one source, he even had his own bodyguard with him, which was more than a little unusual.
A source from Whigham’s says when the picture appeared on the cover of the Enquirer, they told the Houstons of their suspicions.
“They didn’t do anything about it,” says a source. “They’re protecting him. How come they haven’t gotten him out of their circle?”
“The Houston family invited everyone into that room. We had no role in that. We were told their security would handle everything. They didn’t give us responsibility for that.”
About 35 people came to the first viewing. The Wighams didn’t know everyone. But they know none of their people were involved. One of the funeral home employees says they witnessed Raffles van Exel take the picture of Whitney in her coffin.
The burial, by the way, did not include $500,000 worth of jewelry. “It was costume jewelry,” says the funeral director. “Please…”
Many news outlets have reached out to van Exel, who was also “friends” with Michael Jackson, and calls and emails to eliciting a response from him have gone unanswered. Forbes reporter Roger Friendman, states:
His voice mail box is full. He answered one of my emails, asking what I wanted, and then didn’t respond again. A second email was replied to, with a blank message.
Friendman also notes that van Exel had a run in with R&B singer George Benson (“Give Me the Night,” “Turn Your Love Around”) who says, his lawyer had to send van Exel a cease and desist letter warning him not use the name Benson or describe himself as Benson’s son.
One day, Benson says, van Exel called him and told him to come home; he thought there’d been a robbery.
When Benson returned to the house, he discovered $25,000 in cash was missing. He’d taken out of the bank to pay for home repairs. By the time he made the discovery, van Exel had vanished.
“We never saw him or heard from him again,” Benson recalls. Without tangible proof, he couldn’t press charges with the local police. van Exel, as I reported in my original story, has sometimes been sued under the name Raffles Benson.
I wonder why Whitney’s loyal friend/sister in-law Pat Houston didn’t reveal this information during her Oprah interview or even to the press in general?
Could Pat have possibly profited from the sale of Whitney’s casket photo as well? Hmmm… makes you wonder about her silence.