Bickering

07.23.12

Katherine Jackson Missing: Family Staged Intervention

Paris Jackson tweeted that her grandmother was missing—but the family says that’s not the case. Allison Samuels on how the fight over the King of Pop’s estate and children’s Hollywood careers finally got to his mother.

As Los Angeles police continue to investigate reports that the matriarch of the Jackson musical family Katherine is missing, friends and those close to the famous family say the 82-year-old’s disappearance from the public eye and the family’s San Fernando Valley mansion shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. 

They say that after months of intensive, non-stop bickering within the Jackson family over the handling of Michael Jackson’s will, and constant fighting over the burgeoning Hollywood careers of his children, Katherine’s health and mental condition became compromised to the point where an immediate intervention had to be staged. 

“My mother’s health is all that matters,” Jermaine Jackson tweeted in a general message on Twitter, adding that his mother is fine, and resting peacefully and away from stress, in Arizona with his older sister, Rebbie. He said the Jackson children deemed it necessary for Katherine Jackson to make the move as a result of what they say was a mild mini-stroke she suffered recently. 

“There is no plotting or planning involved with this,” Jackson said in the same tweet. 

Katherine’s health concerns appeared to be news to many Jackson grandchildren, as well as family lawyer Sandra Ribera. It had been thought that Katherine was leaving California only to see her sons perform a concert on their Unity tour, and other family members became concerned when she failed to contact her grandchildren for several days. One of her grandchildren filed a missing-person report Saturday. 

“Their grandmother never goes 24 hours without checking in with them when she travels,” Ribera said in a statement. “Her grandchildren became afraid after they failed to hear from her and contacted family members asking to speak to her.” 

Early Sunday morning, Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris Jackson, tweeted a frantic plea regarding her grandmother. “I haven’t spoken with her in a week I want her home now.” She also tweeted her bodyguard’s number for anyone to call with information about her grandmother’s whereabouts. 

Last week, Katherine Jackson left her older grandchildren in charge of Michael¹s minor children (Prince Michael, Paris, and Blanket) of whom she has custody, and traveled with Rebbie—supposedly to see her sons perform on the highly anticipated Unity tour, in New Mexico and Arizona, say family members. The tour was put together in hopes of getting the Jackson brothers back on the charts and on the public radar. But Katherine Jackson didn’t attend either concert, despite her excitement over the tour, say family members. 

“She is 82 years old and has been through so much in those 82 years,” said a family member who did not want to be identified. “She is still grieving Michael’s death and talks about him all the time. Her children felt they had to do what they needed to do to get her the rest and the peace she needs. She is fine, and where she’ll get some rest finally.” 

The family member said Katherine’s grieving, emotional state has left the woman Michael Jackson adored in a position where she has been severely manipulated and controlled by several forces, inside the family and out, over the past three years. 

Michael Jackson’s siblings say they suspect the will that left all his assets to his mother, three children, and charity was forged, given the uncertainty of Michael’s emotional state in the months and years before his death, according to family members.

Just a week ago, a letter from several of Michael’s siblings (all except eldest son Jackie) to the executors of his estate was leaked to news sources by an unknown source, in which the siblings accused the executors of “taking advantage of a grieving mother, father and family.” Parts of the letter that, which ran on the Huffington Post and CNN.com, also suggested that the executors, John Branca and John McClain, had failed to perform their duties, and asked that they remove themselves from their positions. The letter also discussed Katherine’s failing health as a result of all the confusion.

The executors have denied these claims. 

Michael Jackson’s siblings say they suspect the will that left all his assets to his mother, three children, and charity was forged, given the uncertainty of Michaels emotional state in the months and years before his death, according to family members. The siblings also say they feel that their elderly mother had been taken advantage of by the executors, friends say. Katherine Jackson at one point obtained permission from a judge to probe the validity of the will, but never pursued the matter in court, say family members. 

Michael Jackson¹s estate is now valued at $475 million. 

“Ms. Katherine is tired. The fighting over Michael’s money started shortly after his death and it continues today,” said the family member. “Then add to it her now being the parent to his three young kids at 80 years of age. These are kids that are now older and have minds of their own, and she¹s had to deal with that too. It hasn’t been easy.” 

Michael’s three children are teenagers who now have a freedom they never enjoyed while living with their father, who—apparently feeling he missed out on childhood due to early stardom—famously kept his own kids out of the spotlight, even dressing them in masks and costumes. He fiercely guarded their privacy and insisted that they not enter the entertainment industry until they were adults—if at all. But that all changed when he died in 2009. The days of isolation, nannies, and home schooling were suddenly a thing of the past for Prince Michael, Paris, and Blanket. 

“We thought it was important that Michael’s kids get to be with other kids their age,” La Toya Jackson told The Daily Beast. “My mother really wanted that for them, and we made that happen really early on. It took them a minute to get used to it, but I think they really enjoy it.” 

But the major life changes for Michael¹s children didn’t end there. Paris, the only daughter and middle child, decided she very much wanted a music and film career like her famous father’s. Her appearance at his memorial services in Los Angeles was aired all over the world and revealed the then 11-year-old’s charming personality, presence, and beauty. She rarely had been seen in public before, and the phones began ringing off the hook with invites for all three children to appear at tributes for their father and on news shows, and they also received offers for roles in television and films, said family friends. 

The constant requests for the children proved slightly overwhelming for Katherine, who tried as best she could to give them more freedom and opportunity to develop as individuals in the way they felt most comfortable, according to family friends. 

“We understood why Michael was raising them the way he was, but they now had the comfort of his entire family to protect them,” La Toya Jackson told The Daily Beast. “We didn’t want them to feel any pressure one way or the other.” 

Pressure arrived big-time in 2010, when talk-show icon Oprah Winfrey reached out to Katherine about visiting the family’s Encino home to interview her and Michael’s children about the superstar’s life and death. Katherine hesitated at first, but all three of Michael’s kids begged to be on Oprah’s show, and Katherine gave in, family and friends said. Her decision didn’t sit well with some family members, including Katherine¹s youngest child, Janet, who felt it was too much too soon for the children, according to family and friends. Janet knew the last thing Michael would have wanted was for his children to appear on a national talk shop, say family and friends.

“Janet definitely disagreed with the kids being out there like that, but also understood that her mother just wanted Michael’s kids to be happy,” said a family friend. “They had a hard time losing their dad, so Katherine tried to do anything to make them feel good. Janet got that.” 

But Janet wanted it to end there, and reportedly, according to family and friends, was unhappy as the kids went on to appear on shows like Ellen, and at The Kid’s Choice Awards—often with Katherine in tow. 

“The problem was, the more you tell kids that age what they can’t do or shouldn’t do, the more they want to do it,” said a friend of the family. “Telling them and others about it doesn’t help much when that’s what the kids want. It’s a new day and kids fight back in ways you couldn’t do 10 years ago. I know that had to overwhelm Katherine. She didn’t have the strength to fight that fight with them.” 

Janet recently publicly discussed in Prevention Magazine her displeasure about Paris Jackson accepting a role in the film, Lundon¹s Bridge and the Three Keys, to be released in 2014. She told the magazine she suggested to Paris that she should have a normal childhood and even consider college before entering such a “cutthroat business.” 

“Paris is pretty strong-willed,” says a family friend. “She fights back and fights for what she wants. That’s cool and normal for a kid but hard in this situation for this family at this time. I think the Jackson children felt their mother needed a break from all that’s been happening lately, and they made it happen.” 

The family friend added that while one of the family’s lawyers and Paris suggested Katherine had not had a mini-stroke, “The kids know their mother better than anyone else. That’s why they had to intercede for her.” 

Los Angeles police said in a statement that they will continue to search for answers about the precise whereabouts of Katherine Jackson, though they are satisfied that she’s with a family member and not at risk of any harm.