The famed American Top 40 Countdown DJ passed away in June, at age 82, with a host of medical problems including advanced Lewy Body dementia. Now, almost four months later, Casey Kasem’s remains still have not been laid to rest.
It’s a tragic story of a feuding family. And unfortunately, it’s one that won’t likely end any time soon.
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 recently said in an interview with Howard Stern that Jean Kasem didn’t like her or her siblings since the time that Kerri was just nine years old. According to Kerri, Jean would even invent bad deeds that she told Casey the children had done so he would be mad at them.
Things became ugly when Casey Kasem’s health deteriorated, especially during the last year of his life. Casey’s children, other family members, and friends protested in the street when Jean Kasem did not allow them to see Casey. When that didn’t work, Casey’s children filed conservatorship proceedings in court, eventually winning the right to visit with their father.
Until May 7th of this year, Casey was a resident in a California nursing home, where he was sustained on gastrosomy tube. This is a tube that is surgically implanted into a patient’s stomach to provide nutrition and hydration. 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.
Casey Kasem’s removal and disappearance prompted a nationwide manhunt, until he was located near Seattle, in the home of a friend of Jean (after a reported stop-over in Las Vegas). Kerri Kasem had been appointed conservator by that point in California. She started a new 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. After yet another court hearing — highlighted by another emotional outburst from Jean Kasem — the judge gave permission to remove Casey from life support. 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 Kasem — 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, with the apparent intention of burying him there.
Kerri and other family members and friends acted quickly. They submitted a letter to Norwegian officials, signed by more than 20 of Casey’s family members and long-time friends, pleading that Jean not be permitted to bury him in Norway, because Casey had no connection to the country and had wished to be buried in California. Kerri also started an on-line petition, that gathered 24,000 signatures, asking to stop the burial based on Casey’s wishes, as told to many family members and friends, to be buried in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in California.
A few days ago, Kerri Kasem reported on her Twitter account that the letter and petition worked. She stated that the Norwegian funeral home refused to bury her father.
This leaves the ultimate burial of Casey Kasem’s body still in limbo. Presently, the body rests in a hospital, to which members of the Kasem family are sending letters and the petition in the hope that Casey will be returned to California.
Jean Kasem has not spoken publicly about the situation. However, her lawyer recently said during a court hearing that Casey had been doing well before Kerri was granted temporary conservatorship, both in Los Angeles and even later in Washington. That, of course, doesn’t explain why Casey — or his remains — have been moved around so many times in the last few months.
Not only is this a sad story, it’s far from over. Jean Kasem has stated that she is going after the trust that Casey had set up for his children. Kerri Kasem said in the Howard Stern interview that the children don’t know what Casey’s will or trust say, but she suspects that there were changes made to the documents when Casey was very sick. Likely, the battle over Casey Kasem’s body is but a preview of what is to come.
The silver lining to this dark cloud of controversy is that others can learn a valuable lesson. Casey Kasem’s funeral and burial wishes were, according to Kerri Kasem’s petition, made verbally, not in writing. And it certainly appears that Casey Kasem did not do preplanning for his funeral and burial.
Everyone can make it easier on the loved ones they leave behind by planning ahead for their funeral and burial, removing a great source of stress for the family. Family disagreements of this nature are far from uncommon — especially in second marriage situations, as with the Kasem family. In those instances in particular, it’s vital for people to plan ahead for their final wishes, and not take the risk of a family fight.
We’ve seen this scenario play out with many celebrities — James Brown, Gary Coleman, Sherman Hemsley, and even Nelson Mandela, to name a few — and with non-celebrities alike. You can do a great act of love for your spouse, children, and other loved ones by making your funeral and burial plans ahead of time, based on your wishes. Even when there is no fighting, doing the proper funeral planning before you die can save your family a great deal of stress and worry.
Danielle and Andy Mayoras are co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and attorneys with the Michigan law firm, Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C. Click here to subscribe to their e-newsletter, The Trial & Heirs Update and learn more about their book. You can reach them at Contact@TrialAndHeirs.com.