Questions linger about Prince's choice of doctor

Prince performs at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., during his opening show, Feb. 18, 1985. (Liu Heung Shing)

If Prince was seeking help for a problem with prescription drugs, it would make sense for him to turn to a California addiction specialist known for new ideas on treatment. Less clear is why he sought care from a local family care physician with an unassuming resume who met with Prince twice in the weeks before his death and prescribed him unknown medications.

The day Prince died, he was scheduled to meet with the son of Dr. Howard Kornfeld, the California specialist in addiction treatment and pain management. But in the weeks before Prince's April 21 death, he met twice with Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg, who worked at a Minnetonka clinic a few miles from Prince's Paisley Park studio and home, according to search warrant documents released Tuesday.

Prince's cause of death is still unknown, as the autopsy results haven't been released. But a law enforcement official has told The Associated Press that investigators are looking into whether he died from an overdose and whether a doctor was prescribing him drugs in the weeks before his death. The official has been briefed on the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Investigators interviewed Schulenberg the day Prince died and searched a suburban Minneapolis hospital that employed him. The warrant documents didn't specify what medications were prescribed or whether Prince took them.

The warrant details came out the same day investigators returned to Prince's estate and stayed for several hours without saying why.

The official who spoke to AP said investigators are seeking to identify every doctor and pharmacy that may have supplied the singer prescription drugs, including online sources, and that the search involves examining computer drives from Prince's home.

It remains unclear why Prince, a world-famous musician worth millions, would seek the help of an experienced but seemingly ordinary local physician instead of first turning to world-class health care. The Star Tribune, citing a source with knowledge of the investigation, previously reported that Prince had been receiving treatment for withdrawal symptoms from a doctor who previously worked with Prince's longtime friend Kirk Johnson.

Johnson's attorney, F. Clayton Tyler, didn't immediately respond to a message seeking to confirm that Johnson and Prince shared Schulenberg as a doctor.

Schulenberg, 46, worked for North Memorial Medical Center until at least the day of Prince's death, but he has since left the job. Lesa Bader, a spokeswoman for the health care system, said North Memorial's personnel records were private and she couldn't comment on why Schulenberg no longer works there.

According to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice website, Schulenberg has not been subjected to any disciplinary or corrective action in Minnesota or other states. He's a 1995 graduate of the Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine. His license status is listed as active. It expires Oct. 31 of this year.

Schulenberg earned his MBA in health care in 2011 from the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. In a 2012 YouTube video posted by the university, which was removed Wednesday, Schulenberg said he was part of the "leadership group" at Ridgeview Medical Center in Carver County and that his job required him to put in demanding hours. The Ridgeview website said Schulenberg specialized in family medicine and obstetrics.

"As a full-time family physician, that probably demands about 50 hours a week," he said in the video. "I still deliver babies, so I can be called in on an unexpected basis and there goes my evening." Schulenberg described himself in the video as a father of five.

Johnson, Prince's friend, is mentioned in the search warrant documents as having been interviewed by investigators and telling them of medical treatment that Prince received for an unspecified illness in 2014 or 2015 at the Two Twelve Medical Center in Chaska. Schulenberg worked for Ridgeview Medical Center, which operates the Two Twelve, until August 2014, though its unknown whether he worked at Two Twelve when Prince was treated there.

No one answered the door Wednesday at the Schulenberg home in Excelsior, a Minneapolis suburb also just a few minutes' drive from Paisley Park. The blinds were drawn and the two-story house was dark, though a ceiling fan could be seen revolving inside. Several neighbors said the development was new and they didn't know Schulenberg.

At their old neighborhood in nearby Chaska, several people said the Schulenbergs were a quiet family that mostly kept to themselves.

According to the search warrant revealed Tuesday, Schulenberg had seen Prince on April 7 and on April 20, the day before he died. Schulenberg told investigators he came upon the death scene at Paisley Park while dropping off unspecified test results for Prince on April 21.

The day before he died, representatives for Prince reached out to Howard Kornfeld seeking help for the musician, William Mauzy, a lawyer for the California doctor, said last week. Kornfeld couldn't immediately fly to Minnesota to meet with Prince, so he sent his son Andrew that night instead, he said.

Andrew Kornfeld had a small amount of the prescription drug buprenorphine and planned to give that it to a Minnesota doctor who was scheduled to see Prince the next morning, said Mauzy, who wouldn't disclose the doctor's name. Andrew was among three people at Paisley Park when Prince was found unresponsive, and he called 911.

Schulenberg's name doesn't appear on a list of Minnesota doctors authorized to treat opioid dependency with the buprenorphine, according to a database maintained by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The drug, which is also known by its brand name Suboxone, helps control drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. To be certified, doctors are required to undergo an eight-hour training course.

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Associated Press writers Jeff Baenen, in Excelsior, Minnesota, and Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this report.
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