NBA player Rasual Butler was killed alongside his wife in a tragic car accident in the early hours of January 31. TMZ reports that Butler and his wife, Leah Labelle, were both killed in a crash that occurred at around 2 a.m. in Studio City, California. The TMZ report says that Butler lost control of his car, a Range Rover, and slammed into a wall after hitting a parking meter. The photo published by TMZ shows the car flipped over.
Butler was drafted in 2002 to the Miami Heat and had a long NBA career that included spells in Washington and Indiana. More recently, Butler was seen playing in Ice Cube’s BIG3 league.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. LaBelle Came in 12th on the 3rd Season of American Idol in 2004
In 2003, LaBelle began her musical career by performing on the fourth season of American Idol. Labelle auditioned in New York City singing Whitney Houston’s “I Believe in You and Me.” LaBelle made it to the semi finals where she was eliminated. Though LaBelle would return for the wild car episode but failed to qualify beyond that stage. Among the songs that LaBelle sang were “I Have Nothing,” also by Whitney Houston, and “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. LaBelle said that after her run on the show, she was forced to return to Garfield High School in Seattle.
2. Her Pop-Star Parents Defected From Communist Bulgaria in 1979
LaBelle was born in Toronto to Troshan and Anastasia Vladowski in 1986. Her parents were pop stars in their native Bulgaria. In 1979, the couple defected to the west during a tour away from their Communist home. LaBelle wrote a touching tribute to her mother on Facebook in May 2013 that read, “special picture of my mama, taken not too long after she escaped to America w/ my dad to create a life for me in the free world. i am forever indebted to her & forever grateful for the sacrifices she has made for me to assure my happiness & sanity. she is the definition of unconditional. LOVE YOU MAMA @firecracker54 I will never be able to show you enough.” The post was accompanied by the above photo. LaBelle’s mother goes by the Twitter moniker, Firecracker54.
3. When LaBelle Signed to Epic Records; She Was Welcomed With a Lavish Dinner Party Attended by Pharrell Williams & Mariah Carey
LaBelle signed to Epic Records in April 2012. According to a Rap Up report at the time, to welcome LaBelle to the Epic family, she was treated to lavish dinner attended by Pharrell Williams, Mariah Carey and Jermaine Dupri. At the time, LaBelle tweeted, “An EPIC moment at my dinner tonight. I can’t even express my joy.” LaBelle’s debut single with the label, “Sexify” (Above), was produced by Pharrell.
4. There Has Been an Outpouring of Emotion on Twitter Mourning the Couple
There has been an outpouring of emotion at the news of Butler and LaBelle’s deaths. Here some of the most poignant messages from some of the NBA and hip-hop’s biggest names:
5. Butler Has a Daughter From Previous Relationship
Butler and LaBelle did not have any kids together. Butler had a daughter, Raven, from a previous relationship. In August 2016, Butler went viral after he gave his daughter a new car on her first day of college.
The Indy Star reported in December 2013 that Butler had made it out of training camp to line out for the Pacers. Butler credited his daughter as being a motivating factor behind his efforts. He told the newspaper that while he was trying to make it back, Raven chose to live with him full time which motivated him as he felt he had something to prove.