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Family rift bursts open at Bobbi Kristina funeral

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Saturday, August 1, 2015

At Bobbi Kristina Brown's private funeral at St. James United Methodist Church in Alpharetta  this morning, the rift between families broke open outside when Bobby Brown's sister Leolah made a public tirade against Pat Houston, Whitney Houston's sister in law.

TMZ has reported a long-standing feud between the Houston side of the family and the Brown side of the family.

During the funeral, Brown's sister Leolah came out early to the media rabble and railed against Pat Houston, the sister in law of Whitney. She seemed angry, saying, "It's not over. It's just begun." She wasn't specific about her beef with Pat but noted that Pat isn't even a blood relative to Bobbi Kristina. She has previously said she believes Pat is using Whitney and Bobbi Kristina's deaths for her own personal gain.

When asked about the funeral itself, Leolah said, "It was wonderful until Pat started speaking and I didn't like that. I walked out." She said she yelled to Pat while she was at the dais, saying something along the lines of "Whitney is going to haunt you from the grave."

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"She is being the phony person that she is," Leolah added.

TMZ said Tyler Perry helped remove her from the funeral. She  returned back into the church but I'm told she stayed in the lobby. (TMZ also nabbed a copy of the program.)

The St. James United Methodist Church this morning where a private funeral was held for Bobbi Kristina Brown. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/

Earlier, the hearse with Bobbi Kristina's body showed up at around 8:15 a.m. and a handful of media was there to capture it. At about 10:30 a.m., a procession, presumably with close family members, arrived, led by several motorcycle cops.

Mayor Kasim Reed and R&B singer Monica were seen entering the church.

Link to a photo gallery from the funeral by more professional photographers than I am.

We had no access inside. Outside, there were about 60 media types, mostly photographers training their cameras on the parking lot and entrance of the church, hoping to catch family members and celebrities. Some of the media included Associated Press (the reporter dressed up in suit and tie like he was attending the funeral but was unable to get in), Splash News, Getty Images, Reuters, the Daily Mail, V-103 (Maria Boynton) and the local TV stations.

Curiosity seekers, including neighbors with dogs, were relatively modest, maybe 60 or so over a span of four hours.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m, Alpharetta police provided only partial access to Webb Bridge Road to most normal traffic. Part of the road was set aside for media. It was all very organized. The only extraneous noise for a time was a helicopter hovering overhead.

The media rabble covering the Bobbi Kristina funeral. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/

Maria Corkern, an elementary school teacher who lives across the street from the church, planted a chair and an umbrella to watch the proceedings. (She was also interviewed by a German television station.)

"I'm a huge R&B fan," Corkern said. "And I have a 23-year-old daughter so my heart goes out to this family. Aside from the media circus, someone is burying their daughter today and I can't imagine that."

Reo Wallace, a hairstylist, drove in from Conyers early in the morning. She was one of the first people there and was able to see Bobbi Kristina's hearse pass by.

"I got chills," Wallace said. "From being detached from it on television, it became real."

She said she has a 23-year-old daughter herself. When she heard about Bobbi's coma in January, "I was devastated. It was similar to the way Whitney accidentally died. It's very eery and morbid."

Reo Wallace, a hairstylist from Conyers, was one of the early arrivals at 7:30 a.m. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/

Artelia Martin of Atlanta drove up to Alpharetta to pay her respects. "I feel like she's at peace," Martin said. "She's with her mom." As a Delta customer service agent, she said she got to escort both Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, along with Bobbi Kristina several times through the airport. "They were very nice," she said.

Judy Daughtry and Janice Harris from Wilmington, N.C. came up Friday and stayed in a hotel before coming to the church at 9:30 a.m.. "I wanted to support Whitney. Her music is from our era. We love Bobbi Kristina as well," Daughtry said. "It feels good for the connection of being here."

The families held a wake Friday at Murray Brothers Funeral Home, which was reportedly attended by Whitney Houston's mother Cissy and Bobbi Kristina's father Brown.

The body will be flown up to New Jersey and a private burial is scheduled for Monday, where Bobbi Kristina's grave will sit next to her mother's.

Bobbi Kristina passed last month after being in a coma since she was found unconscious in a bathtub.

The cops who led the motorcade of close family members entering the St. James United Methodist Church this morning for Bobbi Kristina's funeral. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/
Mourners entering the church before the Bobbi Kristina funeral began. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/
A lone helicopter circled the proceedings for a bit before the funeral. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/
The mourners - including Leolah Brown in the white hat - leaving the service. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/
A mourner shows off the Bobbi Kristina funeral program to the media as they depart. CREDIT: Hyosub Shin/
Bobby Brown departs the funeral service. CREDIT: Hyosub Shin/


Bobbi Kristina's hearse pulling out of St. James United Methodist Church at about 2 p.m. Saturday, August 1, 2015. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/

About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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