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Inside Lisa Marie Presley’s family tree plagued by health issues – from myths about Elvis’ death to fatal genetics

Inside Lisa Marie Presley’s family tree plagued by health issues – from myths about Elvis’ death to fatal genetics

LISA Marie Presley’s tragic death could share a “correlation” with the sudden death of her dad and may have been the result of defective genes in Elvis’ family tree, a biographer says.

Lisa Marie, 54, died in a Los Angeles hospital on Thursday evening just hours after she was found unresponsive in her Calabasas home having suffered cardiac arrest.

Getty Images – GettyLisa Marie Presley passed away on Thursday hours after suffering from cardiac arrest. She was just 54[/caption]

Getty Images – GettyLisa Mare was Elvis Presley’s only daughter. She is pictured above as a baby in the arms of her mom, Priscilla[/caption]

Her death was confirmed in an emotional statement issued by her mom Priscilla who remembered Lisa Marie as a “passionate, strong, and loving woman.” She called the family’s loss “profound.”

Lisa Marie’s shocking death comes as the latest heart-related fatality to afflict the Presley lineage.

Elvis himself died from cardiac arrest at the age of 42 in 1977, as did his mom – and Lisa Marie’s grandmother – Gladys at the age of 46 in 1958.

All three of Elvis’ uncles on his mother’s side also passed away from either heart or liver-related issues between the ages of 46 and 58.

Author Sally Hoedel published a biography on the Presley family’s extensive health troubles, titled Elvis: Destined to Die Young, in which she argued The King’s death was not caused by self-destruction and drug abuse as many have been led to believe.

Instead, Hoedel believes Elvis’ death was a tragic inevitability spurred by bad genes passed down by his maternal grandparents, Bob Smith and Doll Mansell, who were first cousins.

Those faulty genes were aggravating factors behind his and Gladys’ various health issues, she says, which Elvis in turn treated with a cocktail of prescription drugs.

The author says the premature deaths in the Presley family “stopped being a coincidence” with Elvis’ passing.

And now in the wake of Lisa Marie’s premature passing, Hoedel is questioning whether her death may share a genetic link to the deaths of her father and grandmother before her.

“Lisa Marie has now prematurely left her children, just as Elvis left her in 1977 when she was just nine years old. It’s also just as Gladys left him prior to that,” said Hoedel.

“There is an undeniable pattern of young death in the family with heart, liver, and lung issues prevalent in the family tree.

“It’s obviously too soon to speculate about Lisa Marie, but reports so far do point to a heart-related event.

“I would hate to see her treated unfairly in death, as her father has been. It took decades to uncover just how ill Elvis was so that we could move past the narrative of him taking too many pills and dying in the bathroom. He deserved more than that and so does she.”

It’s impossible to hear about Lisa Marie’s tragically young death at age fifty-four and not leap to the possibility of a correlation.

Sally HoedelAuthor

Hoedel said her research points to a number of reasons why Elvis died at a similar age to his mother, adding that he had disease or disorder present in nine of the eleven bodily functions at the time of his death, including in his heart.

At least five of those disease processes were present prior to his ascension to superstardom, perhaps even since birth, she says.

Rather than a star burning out in a reckless spiral of self-destruction – as is often painted – Hoedel believes Elvis was a man who struggled every day to survive.

Hoedel believes Lisa Marie’s life bears a similar tale of survival.

“It’s impossible to hear about Lisa Marie’s tragically young death at age fifty-four and not leap to the possibility of a correlation,” added Hoedel.

“His family tree, after all, is half of hers.

“It’s also important to be respectful at this time until we find out more. However, the only thing more tragic than her young death would be the failure to recognize that like her father, her story is not one of self-destruction.

“It is clearly a story of survival, and she did the best she could as the daughter of the most famous person to ever live.”


Lisa Marie, like her father, struggled with substance abuse issues for much of her life.

She began drinking and taking drugs at the age of 13 after losing her dad, grandfather, and great-grandmother all within a three-year period.

Lisa Marie eventually got clean after her mom Priscilla admitted her to a Scientology rehab center but in later years she became addicted to prescription opioids and struggled with a cocaine addiction, which she went to rehab for a reported five times to treat.

In more recent years, Lisa Marie is believed to have been sober, though friends close to the family previously told The U.S. Sun they had been worried about her health for some time, particularly since the suicide death of her son, Benjamin Keough, who shot himself at a party in July 2020.

Public DomainGladys (right) died of heart failure at the age of 46, almost exactly 19 years before Elvis’ death[/caption]

Getty – ContributorElvis Presley died aged 42 in a bathroom at his mansion in Memphis, TN, on Aug. 16 1977[/caption]

GettyLisa Marie’s shocking death comes as the latest heart-related fatality to afflict the Presley lineage. (Lisa Marie is pictured right with her mom Priscilla)[/caption]

Both Elvis and his mom Gladys suffered a four-year period of degenerative health in the lead-up to their deaths, according to Hoedel.

Research she conducted found that Gladys had been seeing a cardiologist since at least 1956, and was also hospitalized for two weeks that same year with a mystery illness.

Shortly before her death, Gladys was also diagnosed with hepatitis, the origins of which baffled her doctors at the time.

The condition, which targets the lungs and liver, was thought to have been related to Gladys’ alcoholism.

Born and raised in extreme poverty in the deep south, Gladys’ struggles to cope with her son’s meteoric ascension to fame and fortune are well documented, with the self-described “most miserable woman in the world” reportedly once telling a friend over the phone, “I wish we were poor again, I really do.”

Growing increasingly isolated and depressed as Elvis became a global sensation, Gladys began drinking excessively and taking diet pills – a downward spiral that many believe led to her hepatitis diagnosis and ultimately contributed to her death.

There is an undeniable pattern of young death in the family with heart, liver, and lung issues prevalent in the family tree

Sally Hoedel

Gladys fell seriously ill just a few months after Elvis enlisted in the US Army. The timing of her downturn in health spurred theories that Gladys drank herself to death, wracked with worry and suffering from a broken heart while her son was serving overseas in Germany.

For Hoedel, any such claims are just baseless “romanticism.”

“Gladys has always been painted as this woman whose son became famous, bought her a big house and she just struggled to deal with it all and essentially died of a broken heart,” the author and historian said in an interview last year.

“But that’s not how it works. I think Elvis and Vernon [Elvis’ dad] both knew who knew how sick she was before he left for the army.

“They were all so sad because I believe for sure that they knew they didn’t have a lot of time left with her.”

Contrary to popular folklore, Hoedel believes – like Elvis – the causes of Gladys’ death and ill-health lie further up the family tree – as might Lisa Marie’s.

“The Presleys were incredibly secretive about their health,” Hoedel said, “but I managed to interview people like Nancy Clarke, the daughter of Gladys’ cardiologist, who used to go on house calls with her dad to the Presley home.

“And she told me before her dad passed away, he said there was more to Gladys’ death than what he understood because he’s long been quoted as saying it looked like hepatitis, but it wasn’t, and he couldn’t work out what was wrong with her.”

Hoedel believes that Gladys was actually suffering from Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, an inherited and rarely diagnosed disorder that can cause lung and liver disease.

“We know Elvis had it because he found to be a carrier for Alpha-1 after his death, so it had to come from somewhere” she added.

“And it all leads back to Gladys’ parents.”

In her book, Hoedel examines the health issues of Elvis’ grandmother, Doll Smith, who is believed to have suffered from Tuberculosis for more than 30 years.

“Again, something that doesn’t make sense, but continued to be passed down the family tree and then throughout recorded Elvis history as well,” said Hoedel.

“This book explains how that Tuberculosis was most certainly a misdiagnosis in the early 1900s.

“From there, with the first-cousin marriage, we can see that Gladys most likely inherited two damaged genes and a more serious version of the disease.”


The extent to which defective genes may have played a role in Lisa Marie’s death remains to be seen.

Hoedel called the mom of four’s death shocking and heartbreaking.

The author had seen her just last week in Memphis as fans gathered to celebrate what would’ve been Elvis’ 88th birthday at Graceland.

Lisa Marie’s final public appearance came at the Golden Globe Awards on TuesdayRexHulton Archive – GettyElvis Presley is one of the most iconic and recognizable performers of all time[/caption]

For her book, Elvis: Destined to Die Young, Hoedel painstakingly researched the medical history of the Presley family through a scientific lens

Speaking at the celebration, Lisa Marie told a crowd of ardent Elvis fans: “I keep saying you are the only people who can bring me out of the house. I’m not kidding. I love you back and that’s why I’m here.”

Reflecting on what would prove to be one of Lisa Marie’s final public sightings, Hoedel said: “The news of Lisa Marie’s passing is so tragic and shocking.

“Having watched her generously spend time talking to the fans and taking photos with them, makes this even more shocking.

“For me personally, I can’t help but think about Priscilla and how she is now experiencing the loss of a child, which is the same pain she watched Lisa Marie struggle with over the last two years.

“I am also the mother of twin girls who are thirteen so I’m heartbroken for Lisa’s fourteen-year-old twin girls.”


Lisa Marie’s final public appearance came at the Golden Globe Awards on Tuesday with her mom Priscilla and actor Austin Butler, who won the best actor award for his portrayal of her father in Baz Lurman’s Elvis biopic.

She appeared frail but in good spirits, at one point holding on to Austin’s arm as she moved around.

Lisa Marie shares teenage twins Finley Aaron Love Lockwood and Harper Vivienne Ann Lockwood with her ex-husband Michael Lockwood.

The U.S. Sun understands that Michael has 50 percent custody of their 14-year-old daughters and will be by their side helping them to process the tragedy, which comes just three years after their brother’s death.

Lisa Marie spent the final years of her life “wracked with grief” over the passing of her son.

One source said they had been concerned for her health for some time.

“Lisa has struggled so much over the years, and living in her dad’s shadow, many who know her have feared she would die young,” said the insider.

“In her final years, she was racked with grief over Ben, he was her baby, and he relied on her heavily. Her world completely fell apart when he died.

“She found it so difficult to cope and barely left the house for months after his death […] Everyone was concerned when he died that she would spiral out of control, but she really tried to keep it together for her girls.”

Lisa Marie is survived by daughter Riley, 33, and twins Harper and Finley, 14.

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