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By Wealth Possessed : Love, Money and Property Don't Always Mix--Just Ask Hannah Nash and Her Estranged Sons

April 26, 1992|GARRY ABRAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even Hannah agrees that the court record from the family feud is rich enough for a dozen "sick soap operas."

In a sworn deposition, David Nash testified that Hannah had been an abusive mother and that on one occasion she "began hitting Jerome with a knife and she actually cut Jerome in several places and he was bleeding and that is one of the sorriest days of my life."

David said he had also been physically beaten by his mother: "Sometimes she would use her fist. But other than that, she would use a baseball bat or a dog chain. . . .

"I believe that we had a dysfunctional family. And while my mother tried her best to bring us up, she had more than she could handle emotionally. . . . We had a very--what I thought was a bizarre family. Looking back, I see that it's the same type of dysfunctional family that occurs over and over again in our society, but goes unchecked."

Hannah denies the abuse charges, but does admit hitting Jerome because he was "naughty."

Meanwhile, Jerome charged in court documents that his mother has called him a "thief" and "a liar" and that her accusations had exposed him to "hate, contempt, ridicule and obloquy, causing him to be shunned and avoided."

A friend of Jerome also told the court that Hannah's "vindictiveness has created much suffering . . . has turned brother against brother, has cost vast amounts of money and the court's time and, most tragically has alienated both her sons."

Firing back, Hannah alleged that Jerome "has become verbally abusive toward me and is always bitter and antagonistic . . . Jerome has on several occasions told me that he wishes I were dead."

As Hannah Nash portrays it, the family financial break-up began innocently.

Divorced since 1962, Hannah says she worked as a travel agent and invested in real estate, working nights and weekends to fix up properties. Gradually, she prospered. By 1976, according to court papers, she wanted to include her teen-age sons in the enterprise "to give us a common purpose in working together as a family, and to give my children a start in life."

In this era of good feeling, "the trust that I shared with my sons was so strong that we established and maintained a joint checking account."

For almost 10 years things went swimmingly--from Hannah's perspective.

But in the mid-1980s Hannah claimed that Jerome--whom all involved agree has a special talent for real estate--began shutting her out of the business, using family money to wheel and deal on his own.

"In or about 1986, Jerome became very insistent about making the decisions for all of us in exercising control over the properties in his own name," Hannah alleged in one of many legal briefs. " . . . I allowed Jerome to have title to certain properties in his own name, primarily to satisfy his ego and appease his desire to appear to be a real-estate magnate."

Through his attorneys, Jerome asserted that he was almost entirely responsible for the family's success.

One brief states, "During the 14 years Jerome pursued his career in real estate, he has, from time to time, involved his family. He would involve his family because of his personal desire to maintain some semblance of a family relationship."

But Judge Schoettler weighed in with the opinion that "I am persuaded that Mr. Jerome Nash, when he began his adventures, did not start with five cents in his pocket, that every penny he has came as a result of what Hannah Nash had done."

Whatever they started with, the Nashes were no longer fighting over pocket change. The case files are larded with property lists, copies of canceled checks and various accountings of who got how much money and how it was used. Often the disputes were over hundreds of thousands of dollars generated by a single property.

For instance, Jerome's attorneys alleged that Hannah improperly spent about $300,000 in profits from the sale of an apartment building. The attorneys said Hannah and Jerome had agreed to put the money in certificates of deposit. Instead, the money allegedly went to pay off a loan on a Mercedes, make a large down payment on a Jaguar, pay income taxes, reduce a line of credit, and pay for car repairs and medical bills.

Conversely, Hannah alleged that Jerome pocketed $156,000 after remortgaging three properties.

Mother and son also fought over lesser sums. At one point they argued about dividing up rents from a garage. Jerome's share, according to Hannah's lawyer, would have been $166.67.

Yet at the same time, Jerome's lawyers contended that he was still supporting his mother, spending "at least $116,000" during one period on her expenses.

"Jerome Nash always made sure that Hannah Nash was well-provided for," a brief on behalf of Jerome maintains. "Throughout 1987-88, he gave her substantial amounts of money . . . he spent approximately $100,000 in decorating her residence."

As the lawsuit dragged on, Hannah says her income dropped precipitously, so that for a time she lived in her luxury condominium on monthly Social Security payments of about $700.

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