Tributes from Michael Jackson fans near the entertainerâ€™s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Photo by Jason Lewis for Sentinel
With a court battle still brewing over the custody of Michael Jackson’s children and the administration of his estate, rumors swirled Tuesday about possible plans for public and private memorial services to honor the King of Pop.
Jackson, 50, was pronounced dead Thursday, June 25 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, about two hours after he collapsed at his rented Holmby Hills estate, where he was preparing for 50 sold-out concerts in London.
The singer’s relatives have been huddled at the family’s Encino compound, and patriarch Joe Jackson said Monday that funeral arrangements would not be finalized until the results of a second autopsy were completed. An autopsy by the Los Angeles County coroner did not immediately determine a cause of death, with toxicology test results expected back in four to six weeks.
But media reports surfaced Tuesday indicating that Jackson’s body would be moved from Los Angeles to the singer’s Neverland Ranch estate in Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County. The celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com reported that the body would be moved in a 30-car motorcade leaving Los Angeles at 10 a.m. Thursday.
CNN reported that Jackson’s body would be moved to Neverland Ranch, where a public viewing would be held Friday, followed by a private service on Sunday.
There was still no word on where Jackson would eventually be buried. Various media reports circulated earlier in the week that Jackson would be buried at Neverland Ranch, but Joe Jackson told reporters Monday those reports were untrue.
Meanwhile, the fate of the singer’s three children remained in limbo. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff granted temporary custody of the children — Prince Michael Jr., 12; Paris Michael Katherine, 11; and Prince Michael II, 7 — to Jackson’s 79-year-old mother, Katherine.
It was still uncertain whether Debbie Rowe, who bore two of the children, would be seeking custody.
Rowe delivered the two older children. The youngest was born to a surrogate mother whose identity has not been revealed.
According to papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Jackson’s three children are the sole beneficiaries of his estate, which is reported to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, although Jackson is believed to have been millions of dollars in debt.
Beckloff on Monday also appointed Katherine Jackson special administrator of her son’s estate to protect its assets, including the singer’s Beatles catalog, from third parties.
The judge scheduled a July 6 hearing to consider permanent arrangements regarding both the estate and the children.
Rowe’s attorney, Eric George, told the Los Angeles Times that Rowe will decide within the next several days how to respond to Katherine Jackson’s petition for temporary custody.
Rowe, who was married to Jackson for a time, initially signed a contract with him giving up her parental rights, but she later challenged the agreement, which was thrown out by an appeals court in 2006. Jackson retained custody of the children while Rowe was given visitation rights.
Any attempt to wrest the children from Katherine Jackson likely would focus in part on her age and her health. Apparently expecting a fight, Jackson’s attorneys have argued in court filings that Rowe has had no relationship with her children, and that giving her custody would cause them harm.
Rowe, a former nurse who met Jackson while working for a dermatologist who was treating the singer, could face her own challenges if she seeks custody of Prince Michael Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine.
The celebrity news Web site TMZ.com reported Tuesday morning that it had learned from “multiple sources” that neither Michael Jackson nor Rowe are the two children’s biological parents, that Rowe’s eggs were not used and that she merely served as a surrogate.
Further complicating matters, according to TMZ, Jackson never filed papers to adopt his three children.
US Weekly reported that the real father of the two children Debbie Rowe gave birth to was her former boss, dermatologist Arnold Klein. TMZ reported that police wanted to interview Klein about medications he may have prescribed for Jackson.
Klein’s attorney, Richard Charnley, issued a statement saying that “because of patient confidentiality, Dr. Klein will make no statement on any reports or allegations.”
“Like millions of Michael’s fans around the world, Dr. Klein is saddened by Michael’s death and extends his condolences to the family,” Charnley said.
Court papers indicate that Katherine Jackson is anticipating a tussle not only over the children but also over the estate, with her lawyers asserting that they do not know of a will but that it was possible that someone will emerge claiming to have one.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, Jackson signed a will in 2002 leaving his estate to Katherine Jackson and his children — not his father, Joe.
A will that was being held by attorney John Branca was reportedly turned over to the Jackson family today and was expected to be filed in court. A police investigation, meanwhile, was continuing into the circumstances of Jackson’s death. A law enforcement source told The Times that LAPD detectives are interviewing an unknown number of doctors who treated or prescribed medication to Jackson.
Police and coroner’s officials on Monday removed medical evidence from the Holmby Hills mansion where Jackson died. Significant quantities of prescription medications were also taken from the mansion last week.
Despite the various media reports, no official funeral and memorial services had been announced yet by the family. Jackson’s father, Joe, told reporters outside the family’s estate Monday that the family was still looking for answers about why the singer died.
“We’re not ready for that yet, because we’re trying to wait on something else,” Joe Jackson said in reference to memorial ceremonies. “We’re searching to see what happened to Michael. …. We don’t have the time frame yet ‘cuz I want to see how the autopsy’s coming out, you know, the second autopsy. They’re doing it right now and I’m expecting to hear about it real soon.”