Entertainer Jerry Lee Lewis' fifth wife, found dead in...

NESBIT, Miss. -- Entertainer Jerry Lee Lewis' fifth wife, found dead in her bed Wednesday by a maid, died from pulmonary edema, a buildup of fluid in the lungs, a preliminary autopsy report showed Thursday.

Cause of the fluid buildup was not immediately determined, but the 25-year-old woman, Shawn Michelle Lewis, a former Detroit secretary who married the piano-pounding singer June 7, reportedly had been taking sleeping pills.


Authorities would not comment on reports she had taken an accidental overdose of the pills, but officers confirmed that sleeping pills and other legal drugs were found in the house.

'The preliminary cause of death as given by Dr. Jerry Francisco is pulmonary edema due to undetermined causes,' said Denver Sowell, sheriff of DeSoto County, Miss. 'At this time we have no evidence of foul play. The investigation is continuing. Complete results of the autopsy will not be known for several days.'


'We didn't find anything we consider to be illegal drugs,' said one investigator, who asked not to be identified.

Francisco is the Shelby County medical examiner in Memphis whose office handled the autopsy Thursday.

Friends of the couple had said Mrs. Lewis had been taking sleeping pills and speculated she may have acccidentally taken a fatal dose.

'She has had sleeping pills prescribed in the past because of her lifestyle, trying to keep up with us on tour,' said Lewis' manager, J.W. Whitten. 'You just have to sleep when you can.'

Whitten said Mrs. Lewis had been in good spirits in recent days and thought she might be pregnant.

'We were all hoping she was pregnant,' Whitten said. 'She'd been trying to get that way for a while. She just mentioned during the trip that she thought she was pregnant. Everything was just going great for their marriage.'

Sowell said his office was called a few minutes after an ambulance was sent to the Lewis home, about 20 miles south of Memphis.

An investigation team later was sent from the state crime lab in Jackson and found the sleeping pills.

Lewis, 47, was at home when the body was found, but left late Wednesday afternoon and went into seclusion, refusing to talk to reporters as he was driven away in a black Cadillac.


'He is shocked, but he's taking it fairly well,' said Whitten.

Tragedy has dogged Lewis throughout his adult life.

His 3-year-old son, Steve, drowned in a swimming pool in 1962 and his 19-year-old son, Jerry Lee Lewis Jr., died in an auto accident.

His fourth wife, Jaren, also drowned in a swimming pool a year before Lewis married the former Shawn Michelle Stephens in a brief ceremony on the patio of his north Mississippi home.

At one point in his career, a second marriage to a 13-year-old cousin temporarily turned public sentiment against the singer, nicknamed 'Killer,' who rose to fame as a rock 'n roller in the 1950s, but he made a comeback in later years.

His career got its start with the 1957 release of 'Great Balls of Fire,' the first of a long string of hit records that soared on the country and popular music charts over the next two decades.

Lewis had a close brush with death in 1981 when he was hospitalized for a 2-inch stomach tear. Two months later, after two major operations, he left the hospital weakened but grinning, having beaten 50-50 odds.

The Ferriday, La., native also has been in and out of trouble with the law over the years for minor drug and alcohol charges. And he has a running battle going with the Internal Revenue Service over back taxes.


His bass player won a $125,000 federal court judgment against Lewis, claiming the entertainer shot him in the chest. And in another well-publicized 1976 incident, Lewis was arrested at the gates of Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion in Memphis for allegedly waving a pistol and demanding that the singer come outside. He was acquitted on those charges, however.

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