• Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
Bobbi Kristina, Nick Gordon, Rings

Jason Winslow / Splash News

After a long fight, Bobbi Kristina Brown has passed away.

At just 22 years old, the famous daughter of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston died Sunday evening surrounded by her family. 

Before Bobbi's life came to a tragic end, E! News was able to sit down with one of her closest friends to share what life was like for the aspiring singer. What she revealed may surprise some.  

Three weeks before she was found unconscious in the bath, Bobbi phoned one of her best friends, Alex Reid.

She was distraught and scared, and was hiding from her live-in boyfriend, Nick Gordon. Her refuge of choice—inside her deceased mother's closet.

"She was sobbing. Nick had hit her and she was scared," explains Alex, recalling the conversation with Krissi in an exclusive interview with E! News. "She was very upset. She didn't know what to do. It was as if she didn't have anyone else to turn to. It was heartbreaking."

This is the first time Bobbi Kristina's best friend has spoken. California-based Alex would speak to Whitney Houston's daughter often, sometimes daily. The two girls first met during Grammys week two years ago and immediately bonded.

"I love her. I would never have betrayed her and spoken out before now, " says Alex through tears. "But as she lies there, I feel there is no one else to speak on her behalf. I feel like I have to be a voice for her now."

Hiding from Gordon was just one of the heartbreaking incidents that Bobbi Kristina confided in her friend about: "Krissi was physically abused by Nick on a number of occasions and she told me about some of them," Alex says. "I never witnessed anything…she would FaceTime me every time she was distraught, when something has just happened or show me a bruise."

Meanwhile, there are still a number of unanswered questions about what really went on in those final hours before the 911 call from Bobbi Kristina's Atlanta home on Jan. 31. A police investigation is still ongoing. And Alex is determined to find out what happened to her best friend: "There are things that I know that no one else does," she tells us. "And I hope that by speaking out I can help the investigation in some way."

Bobbi Kristina Brown

Kevin Mazur/WireImage via ABC

According to Alex, Bobbi Kristina was hiding a lot, having felt isolated and stuck in an abusive relationship. Here are the heartbreaking details E! has uncovered about the past year of her life (reps for Gordon have not responded to numerous requests for comment):

1. Bobbi Kristina was not close to the rest of her family:

Things changed dramatically after Whitney Houston died. The cause: money issues.

According to a source who had knowledge of the family dynamics, when Houston was alive, she often helped out friends and family and some people relied on her generosity.

 "But after her death, everything changed, and some of that had to do with Nick," says our insider. "Nick had always been the man of the house, even when Whitney was around. He might have been young but he felt like their protector. And so when Whitney passed, as Bobbi Kristina mourned her mother, Nick took his role even more seriously."

He started to have a say in who would continue to benefit from the financial estate Krissi inherited, says a source, claiming Nick worried the money might run out. "He wanted to help her protect the fortune," the source adds.

Bobby Brown, Pat Houston, Cissy Houston

Lou Rocco/Kris Connor/BET/Getty Images

His involvement helped contribute to a rift between Bobbi Kristina and Whitney's once-close circle—and they especially resented Nick. They didn't understand why he was helping control everything.

The divide brought Bobbi Kristina and Nick closer together and helps explain a lie that they perpetuated until earlier this year, when reps for dad Bobby Brown and the Houston family shut the rumor down.

"That was why they told people they were married. They put on a united front," Alex explains. "According to a source, Krissi felt torn between choosing her mom's family and friends or the man she loved; A man who had been by her side in those heartbreaking months after her mother's death. Alex says, "He was the closest thing she had, and together they ended up feeling like it was them against the world."

Bobbi Kristina Brown, Nick Gordon

Jason Winslow / Splash News

2. Bobbi Kristina became isolated:

The relationship between Nick and some of the Houston family got so bad that in April 2014 Pat Houston ended up getting a restraining order against him.

And after that, then there was no going back.

"Krissi felt isolated from the whole family and that left her completely dependent on Nick for everything," explains Alex. "It was just her and Nick and that was it."

Without Whitney's immediate family there, Nick seemed to have more control than ever. "In the end, Krissi would talk about how Nick had access to all the credit cards," says another source. Bobbi Kristina ultimately felt that "she couldn't buy something without Nick's permission."

Bobbi Kristina, Nick Gordon

Jim Spellman/WireImage

3. Nick started physically abusing Bobbi Kristina:

"I don't know when he started hitting her," says Alex. "But I know of at least four occasions when he struck her. She also told me about how he had tried to choke her once. She was definitely scared. She had some friends, but not many.

"One time I remember she called me for three hours. She was hyperventilating. I could barely understand what she was saying because she was so distraught. When she could finally get the words out she told me he had been physically abusive. He had hit her in the face and thrown her against a wall.

"There were things I knew that she couldn't tell anyone else. She didn't feel comfortable confiding in her family because she loved him and she didn't want them turning against him, more than they already had. She loved him and was loyal to him despite the abuse."

Alex tried to persuade her to leave him multiple times but she wouldn't listen. "It was a desperate love," she says. "She felt like she couldn't do anything without him."

And Bobbi Kristina would make excuses for his behavior. "She said she didn't blame Nick," Alex recalls. "She blamed his temper. It was just that he couldn't control it. She didn't think it was his fault."

Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina Brown

Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

4. Bobbi Kristina and Bobby Brown's relationship was strained:

Whitney and Bobby's only child together didn't feel like she could turn to her dad for help.

"They barely saw each other, " says another source. "She felt he was too busy. All Bobbi Kristina wanted was to be taken care of, and all everyone seemed to do was the opposite.

"Meanwhile it seemed to give Nick more and more control."

Bobbi Kristina, Nick Gordon, Rings

Jason Winslow / Splash News

5. There were times when she wanted to leave Nick:

According to an insider, Krissi would sometimes daydream about a new life, a life without Nick. She would fantasize about starting over again.

Alex says, "She would have moments of strength, where she would talk about having a happy, productive life. And then she would slip back and think she couldn't do anything without him."

6. Underlying everything, Bobbi Kristina was still haunted by her mother's untimely death:

Houston, who died in 2012, was never far from the young woman's mind.

She talked about her constantly, "as if she was still alive," says a source.

Four days after she was found unconscious, Krissi had been due to fly to Los Angeles to record some music. Alex says, "She really wanted to make a name for herself in the music world. She was really excited about it. She wanted to continue the legacy of her mom. She had spent the past year writing and singing new songs and would often make little videos of herself happily singing as she sat around her swimming pool in the afternoon. She was really keen to be known not just as Whitney Houston's daughter but also as herself. She wanted to make her mother's proud."

Whitney Houston, Bobbi Kristina Brown

Jim Smeal/WireImage

In those final weeks, Alex became increasingly worried about her. "I felt she was in danger. I didn't know what to do. She had sworn me to secrecy; she didn't want anyone to know the truth. All I wanted to do was to help her and yet I couldn't betray her. It didn't matter what I said to her, she wouldn't listen. And I couldn't speak publicly and upset her. I didn't know how to get through to her," says Alex.

And on that final fateful week in January, things started to get very strange: "She was texting me from two different cell phone numbers," Alex remembers.

"We didn't speak as much that week as Nick wasn't happy at her for confiding in me. I was finding it hard to get a hold of her. On the Thursday, before the 911 call, I texted with her and she seemed fine. But on the Friday when I texted again, I didn't hear back. Then at around 3 p.m., I tried to call her and she didn't return my call, which never happened. She would always call me back. I tried her again at around 9 p.m. Atlanta time. And still no answer.

"When I heard the news on the Saturday I just screamed, I couldn't believe it. "

Pat Houston, Tina Brown, Bobbi Kristina Family, Leaving Hospice

Jason Winslow/Splash News

So what did happen in those final days in the Atlanta house? The police are still investigating. But we do know this: Her husband was not her husband, but rather Bobbi Kristina and Nick's "marriage" was a lie made up as a way to create a protective union.

Bobbi Kristina was barely speaking to her dad, and her relationship with her mom's family was limited. She was living in a big house and seemingly being controlled by her boyfriend. She was scared but helpless to change her situation. She was a motherless 21-year-old in charge of a huge legacy. And the truth is, she felt all alone.

"Krissi was just a teenager when she lost her mom," says Alex. "She did not get proper therapy, and instead was just living alone with her older boyfriend struggling to heal. "She needed support and unconditional love, so she desperately clung to Nick in the hopes of finding that in him. Instead, she got physically abused, emotionally abused, disrespected and taken advantage of."

—Additional reporting by Senta Scarborough

(Originally published July 1, 2015 at 1:50 p.m.)