Mystery Solved: Michael Jackson's Body at Prominent Cemetery

As family argues over Neverland burial, Jackson's body waits at Forest Lawn

July 9, 2009 — -- Michael Jackson's body is at Forest Lawn cemetery, sources close to the family told ABC News, but a dispute among his brothers and mother over whether the King of Pop should be finally laid to rest at Neverland Ranch is delaying his burial.

Confirmation of the body's location ends two days of rumor and speculation about where Jackson's body is being held -- a secret the family, the cemetery and local officials have tried to keep quiet.

Jackson's remains may not stay at Forest Lawn, however. The singer's brothers and mother, sources said, are engaged in a argument about whether he should be buried at Neverland Ranch, the Xanadu-like estate at which the King of Pop once held court but where he vowed never to return again after police raided the home looking for evidence of child molestation in December 2003.

Sources close to the family told ABC News that some of Jackson's brothers are beginning the lengthy process of applying for permission from the state to bury the icon at Neverland Ranch, the sprawling estate in Santa Barbra County where he lived from 1988 to 2003.

Jackson's death certificate, which lists his cause of death as "deferred" pending toxicology results, indicates his burial location as "Temp," meaning a final resting place has yet to be determined.

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.

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.

Jackson was memorialized Tuesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. An estimated 19,500 people attended while 1 billion watched on television.

At the memorial Jackson was kept in a closed casket plated with 14 karat gold.

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.

Impresario Berry Gordy, a close Jackson family friend who eulogized the singer at the memorial, recently purchased a crypt at Forest Lawn leading some to speculate that Jackson's body is being held there temporarily, said Steve Goldstein, author of "LA's Gravesite Companion: Where The VIPs RIP."

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

Cause of Michael Jackson's Death Still Pending

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," William Boyer, a Santa Barbara County spokesman, said Wednesday. "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.

ABC News' Rich Esposito contributed to this report.

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