CASEY KASEM FORTUNE FIGHT: IS A FAMILY MEMBER TO BLAME FOR THE FAMED TOP 40 DJ’S DEATH?
Why are Casey Kasem’s wife and daughter accusing each other of killing the iconic American Top 40 Countdown host? Could either of them really have been responsible for his death?
And what did Casey Kasem’s doctors have to say about the controversy?
This is the second installment in our Fortune Fights series, based on the celebrity documentary television show, Fortune Fights, for which we serve as hosts, legal commentators and executive producers. New episodes air on the REELZ network Thursday nights at 9 pm et/pt. The second episode, Casey Kasem: Fortune Fight, airs February 7th.
Casey Kasem passed away in 2014 at age 82, with a host of medical problems including advanced Lewy Body dementia. His death came amidst a tragic story of a family feud that grew worse as Casey Kasem aged and now continues years after he died.
Kasem’s wife of more than 30 years, Jean Kasem, wasn’t exactly close with his three adult children from his first marriage. In fact, Casey’s daughter Kerri Kasem said during an interview with Howard Stern that Jean didn’t like her or her siblings since the time that Kerri was just nine years old.
Jean has a different perspective. She told 48 Hours that the children were angry and upset with their father for marrying her.
Things really became ugly when Casey Kasem’s health deteriorated, especially during the last year of his life. Casey was a resident in a California nursing home, where he was sustained on a feeding tube. It was at that time, according to a letter from Casey Kasem’s doctor, that Jean Kasem decided to take matters into her own hands. Against doctor’s advice, and after being “informed of the risks of doing so … and placing Mr. Kasem in great bodily harm or possible demise,” Jean disconnected the feeding tube, removed him from the facility at 2:30 in the morning, and loaded him into an SUV.
Jean then drove off with Casey, not telling the rest of the family where she took him. In the 48 Hours interview, Jean said she moved Casey to protect him and leave the drama behind. She described how she had placed Casey into the facility under an assumed name, and once Casey’s daughters found out where he was and planned to file a new court proceeding, Jean decided to relocate her ailing husband.
Casey Kasem’s removal and disappearance prompted a nationwide manhunt, until he was located near Seattle, in the home of a childhood friend of Jean (after a reported stop-over in Las Vegas). Kerri Kasem had been appointed conservator by the court in California. She has to start a second court proceeding in Washington to see her father again and to have him evaluated by doctors.
When Kerri appeared with paramedics to retrieve her father, Jean hurled a pound of raw meat into the street, proclaiming to reporters, “In the name of King David, I threw a piece of raw meat into the street in exchange for my husband to the wild rabid dogs.”
By then, Casey Kasem was suffering terribly, according to Kerri and the doctors. Again, Jean tells another side of the story, supported by her friend, saying that Casey was doing well in the Washington home.
This prompted yet another court hearing. Ultimately, the judge gave permission to remove Casey from life support to end his suffering, over Jean’s objection. He was pronounced dead on June 15, 2014.
Instead of ending the fight, the dispute then took yet another bizarre turn. Kerri Kasem’s authority as conservator ended when her father died, which left Jean — as the closest next-of-kin — with legal authority to handle Casey’s burial. Kerri says that Casey had told many family members and friends that he wanted to be buried in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale California, close to where Casey and Jean had lived.
But Jean didn’t take his body home to be buried. Instead, Casey Kasem’s remains sat in the state of Washington for almost a month. Kerri returned to court, yet again, to obtain a restraining order to allow an autopsy be performed on the body. Kerri worried that Jean refused to return Casey’s body home to California to evade a criminal, elder abuse investigation involving Jean’s care of Casey.
Kerri’s legal team successfully obtained the restraining order. There was only one problem — they obtained it on July 15, 2014, but Jean had her husband’s body flown to Montreal the day before.
But that still didn’t end the travels. Jean Kasem then had Casey’s body flown to Oslo, Norway, where she finally had Casey Kasem buried. In the 48 Hours interview, Jean declined to provide her reason for the burial in Norway, citing the ongoing litigation.
Jean did say that she blamed Kerri Kasem for Casey’s death, even accusing Kerri of a long-term, premeditated plan to kill her father. She said that the children were motivated by money the whole time – a claim they hotly dispute. They, in turn, accuse Jean of causing Casey to die, particularly the decision to remove him from the California nursing home against doctors’ advice.
Not only is this a sad story, it’s far from over. Since the controversy over the body, the two sides have continued to battle in court over trusts and insurance policies. But the stakes have recently gotten even higher, as Casey’s children sued Jean for wrongful death and she counter-sued. The case is proceeding towards trial to determine if either side is legally responsible for Casey Kasem’s death.
This fortune fight illustrates how divisive and emotional intra-family conflicts can become, especially is second-marriage families. It highlights the importance of proper estate planning, including powers-of-attorney, wills, trusts, insurance, and funeral and burial planning.
Even with the best estate planning, fights like this can occur, but they are almost always more complicated, drawn-out and expensive when documents are changed late in life by someone suffering from health complications like dementia.
The Fortune Fights celebrity documentary series airs on the REELZ cable network, with new episodes airing Thursdays at 9 pm. In the series, Danielle and Andy Mayoras explore the legal ups and downs, and fortunes earned and lost, of stars like Johnny Depp, Madonna, Britney Spears, Robin Williams, Harrison Ford and others.
Danielle and Andy Mayoras are co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, television hosts and keynote speakers. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. For all the latest celebrity legal news, be sure to check out their blog.
[photo credit: Flickr]