Jackson's Mother and Brothers Disagree About Neverland Burial

Jackson's brothers seek burial permission at Neverland, but mother opposes plan.

July 08, 2009, 5:39 PM

July 8, 2009 — -- Some of Michael Jackson's brothers plan to seek permission to bury his body at Neverland Ranch, the Xanadu-like estate at which the King of Pop once held court but where he vowed never to return again, sources close to the family told ABCNews.com.

State officials said the process to establish a cemetery in a residential area could take weeks. Adding to the delay, sources said, was a push by Jackson's mother, Katherine,, 79, that the family find an alternative place for burial out of respect for the singer's wish that he never return to Neverland.

Jackson made no arrangements for his burial in his will, written in 2002 and made public last week. His mother was the only family member, aside from his children, mentioned in the will, and her opinion carries considerable weight in any decision the family ultimately makes, sources said.

Though a final decision has yet to be made, some family members have begun the lengthy process to establish a state-sanctioned cemetery on the 2,800-acre estate, which, in Jackson's prime, was replete with amusement rides and a zoo, but fell into disrepair after Jackson left the compound in 2003 in the aftermath of allegations that he molested a child.

Three of Jackson's brothers -- Jackie, Jermaine and Tito -- visited Neverland just two days after Jackson died, reminiscing about their brother and fueling speculation that a memorial or burial might be held there.

Though there are laws about scattering cremated remains, local officials suggested it would likely be permissible if the family scattered Jackson's ashes on the ranch.

Jackson was memorialized Tuesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. An estimated 19,500 people attended while 1 billion watched on television. Since the ceremony, however, the family has remained mum on plans for a burial and secretive about the current whereabouts of his body.

Sources told ABC News that following the public memorial, the family's plan was for Jackson's body to go to Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills, the final resting place for some of Tinseltown's biggest names, to await burial arrangements.

A cemetery spokesman said a confidentiality policy prevented him from confirming that the body was there.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles coroner, who has yet to determine the official cause of Jackson's June 25 death, pending the results of a toxicology exam, remains in possession of a piece of Jackson's brain for further testing.

In 2003, Jackson was accused, tried and acquitted of sexual misconduct with a boy. In the aftermath of the trial, Jackson said the invasion of his home by investigators had tainted it and he swore he would never again live there.

"I won't live there ever again," he told CBS' "60 Minutes" in December 2003. "I'll visit Neverland. It's a house now, it's not a home anymore."

Following his acquittal in 2005, Jackson lived first in the Middle East country of Bahrain and briefly in Ireland before returning to the United States.

On June 25, he died, apparently of cardiac arrest, in the Los Angeles rental home he shared with his three young children.

If the family ultimately decides to get permission to bury the body at Neverland, the process could take weeks, said a spokesman for the California State Cemetery and Funeral Board.

"The application is a confidential document," said Russ Heimerich, the board's spokesman who would not confirm whether or not the family had already filed an application to establish a cemetery at Neverland.

But before any documents could be filed with the state, Heimerich said a series of steps needed to be taken, including getting permission from Santa Barbara County, where the house is located, establishing an endowment fund and finding a cemetery manager -- all of which would delay a speedy burial at the ranch.

County officials said the Jackson family has yet to contact them about seeking permission for a burial.

"We have had no official contact in any way with the Jackson family or the property owners regarding any burial," said William Boyer, a Santa Barbara County spokesman. "We have also had no contact from state about an application being filed."

Boyer said he had been in touch with representatives of Colony Capital, the investment company that owns a majority of Neverland, but only to discuss traffic and emergency procedures in the area, given the increased media attention.

Jackson bought Neverland in 1998. Ten years later, as Jackson's finances crumbled, he owed $25 million on the property. Colony Capital saved the spread from foreclosure and the auction block.

Following Jackson's death, some observers speculated that the family was considering holding a memorial or funeral at the ranch. Workers were seen there, cleaning up the grounds and draining a pond.

ABC News' Richard Esposito contributed to this report.

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