Police probe death of Temptations singer Dennis Edwards

Susan Whitall, and Oralandar Brand-Williams

Chicago police are investigating the death of Dennis Edwards, the Grammy-winning member of the Temptations, who died last week.

“It’s an open and ongoing investigation at this time,” said Chicago police spokeswoman Laura Amezaga on Tuesday.

Edwards, 74, died Thursday at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. Edwards’ wife reported to the media his cause of death was complications from meningitis. Yet Becky Schlickerman, a spokeswoman for the Cook County (Illinois) Medical Examiner’s Office, said Monday an autopsy was completed on the singer, and the “manner and cause of death are pending” and under investigation.

An emergency protection order filed in January by the Health Care Consortium of Illinois, which investigates elder abuse cases for the state, alleges the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee suffered from neglect and abuse at the hands of his wife, Brenda Edwards, 60, in the last months of his life.

In a statement released Tuesday to The Detroit News via a publicist, Brenda Edwards disputed the accusations: “I loved Dennis and we were married for 18 years. I would have never done anything to harm him. These allegations are false and defamatory and will be proven as such. Until this is all over, I have no further comment.”

Dennis Edwards fell ill in 2017 reportedly from meningitis and was in and out of the hospital, although one of his daughters, Issa Pointer-Stewart, who was appointed the singer’s power of attorney, said she never heard his doctors say he had meningitis.

Late last year Brenda Edwards moved him from the St. Louis area to a luxury high-rise apartment building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, family said. While there, Edwards underwent a stint in rehab at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab to remove a ventilator he had been using for much of the year.

After Edwards was released from rehab and sent home, an investigation was launched by adult protective services after he initiated a complaint, Pointer-Stewart said Tuesday. On Jan. 12, a protection order was filed against Brenda Edwards on Dennis Edwards’ behalf in Cook County Circuit Court by Bella Greer of the Health Care Consortium of Illinois.

On Friday, Brenda Edwards reported to a hearing that was scheduled in the case. But, according to a clerk at the court, the order in such a case would be vacated if the person on whose behalf the petition was filed died.

Citing privacy laws relating to adult protective services, Greer told The Detroit News that she couldn’t comment directly on the case but confirmed that her name was on the order.

The protection order states there was an attempt to “suffocate (Edwards) by holding his head face down on the bed” and he had been deprived of his hearing aids.

Edwards, according to the document, was “bed bound and immobile.” The protection order also alleges a “history of abuse by the respondent” (Brenda Edwards) and required that his cellphone, hearing aids and iPad be given back.

Dennis Edwards was removed from the residence “regarding medical issues, ” the protection order further reads.

Edwards’ daughters, Denise Edwards and Pointer-Stewart, said they did not want to comment directly on the allegations of abuse because of the police investigation.

Pointer-Stewart, who was in Miami on tour with the Pointer Sisters — her mother, Ruth Pointer, married Edwards in 1977 — said she felt she and her siblings had been isolated from her father.

Currently, funeral arrangements for Edwards are pending and being handled by Baucom’s Precious Memories Services funeral home in Jamestown, Missouri.

Relatives of Edwards in Detroit said they hope to plan a memorial service as well to give Detroiters a chance to pay their respects to the beloved former Motown star, who grew up in the city after his family moved from Alabama when he was 7 years old.

Last year, Leon Fuller of Detroit said he kept calling to speak to his first cousin, but Brenda Edwards “wouldn’t let me know where he was.”

“Why would she move him to Chicago?”

Edwards was an imposing figure at 6-feet, 4-inches tall, a big personality, with a strong, commanding voice to match; friends and family are shocked that Edwards was completely helpless at the end.

Fuller, 84, received a call from a nurse in January to let him know Edwards was in the hospital.

“I went over to see him... he smiled at me,” Fuller recalled. “I hate the way he went out.”

Detroit singer Bettye LaVette said she saw Edwards, and although he told her he was ill, “he looked fine,” she said. “I just can’t imagine him ending up in this kind of situation.”

Daughter Pointer-Stewart, 40, says she has fond memories of her father.

“He was extremely funny. He gave me this incredible voice and this larger than life presence, both me and my son sort of have that. ...

“I hope we can give him what he deserves.”