LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson’s father said on Friday he suspected “foul play” in the death of his pop star son, as lawyers disclosed talks aimed at settling guardianship of the singer’s two children with his ex-wife.
The previously unknown talks caused a Los Angeles court to delay by one week a key hearing over custody of the kids, who are now being cared for by Jackson’s 79-year-old mother.
Jackson’s father, Joe Jackson, told ABC News in a TV interview Friday that he was dumbfounded when he learned his son collapsed at home and was being rushed to the hospital.
“I just couldn’t believe what was happening to Michael. I do believe it was foul play. I do believe that,” he said, without elaborating.
The “Thriller” singer died suddenly over two weeks ago after suffering cardiac arrest at his rented Los Angeles mansion. He was 50. Since then, numerous media reports have surfaced about powerful prescription drugs found by police at Jackson’s home after his June 25 death.
“I didn’t know anything about the drugs,” Joe Jackson said. “I didn’t even know the name of them. But I do know that whatever he’d taken was to try to make him rest because he had been working so hard, and that drug was supposed to try and make him relax.
“But anyway he didn’t wake up. He never woke up. Michael died in his sleep.”
Toxicology reports are pending on the official cause of Jackson’s death, but numerous media reports have said that the dangerous sedative Diprivan — normally used in hospitals by anesthesiologists — was found at the singer’s home.
Jackson family attorney and spokesman L. Londell McMillan, said his legal team is now in talks with attorneys for Jackson’s ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, about the key question of who will care for his children.
A judge gave Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, temporary guardianship days after the singer’s death, and a hearing to continue her role had been set for July 13.
“We are pleased that the child custody hearing has been continued over until July 20 to allow us to continue to make progress in our dignified and amicable discussions for the best interest of the children,” McMillan told Reuters.
He declined to detail the discussions or say if Rowe, was seeking custody of the two children she bore Jackson while they were married in the late 1990s: Prince Michael Jr, 12, and Paris, 11. Jackson had a third child, Prince Michael II, 7, using a surrogate mother whose name has never been disclosed.
Last week, Rowe told a Los Angeles television station, “I want my children,” but later that same day her attorney told reporters in a telephone conference call that although the quote was correct, its intention was distorted.
At the time, attorney Eric George said Rowe had not made a decision about whether she would seek custody of the two kids, and since then Rowe has not addressed the matter in public.
In a 2002 will, Jackson nominated his mother to be the guardian, but legal experts say Rowe can challenge the guardianship and possibly win custody of her two children.
“California law, like many states’ laws, strongly favors children remaining in a family that was intact when they were born, even if it no longer is at this point,” said Scott Altman, an expert in family law who teaches at the University of Southern California.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Paul Simao