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Michael Jackson's Nephews File Lawsuit Over Mother's Death : Court: Delores Jackson's family accuses her boyfriend of drowning her in his pool last year and complains that Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti won't prosecute him.

August 26, 1995|JULIE TAMAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The sons of Delores Jackson, former sister-in-law of pop superstar Michael Jackson, have filed a wrongful-death suit against a man they accuse of killing her, complaining that Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti won't bring criminal charges against him, the sons' lawyer said Friday.

The dead woman's family is also asking the state attorney general to take over the investigation from the Los Angeles district attorney's office, said the attorney, R. Brian Oxman. He contends that the district attorney won't prosecute because he still harbors a grudge against Michael Jackson over a child molestation case.

Oxman filed the suit Friday against businessman Donald J. Bohana, Delores Jackson's boyfriend, who recovered her body from his Ladera Heights swimming pool in August, 1994.

Sheriff's detectives at first said Jackson's death appeared to be an accidental drowning.

But Garcetti's office reopened its investigation in November after coroner's officials produced new evidence they said showed that Jackson, 39, might have been the victim of an "assisted drowning."

The case remains open but so far nobody has been charged.

Jackson's family alleges in the lawsuit that Bohana beat Jackson and drowned her in the pool because she refused to bail him out of financial troubles. "He needed money and she just said no, and we believe that's what the fight was over," said Oxman, a Santa Fe Springs attorney.

Bohana and Garcetti's office declined to comment on the allegations against them. The state attorney general's office said Oxman's request had not yet been received.

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Because Jackson died while Bohana was in bankruptcy, the suit was filed in federal bankruptcy court, Oxman said. It asks that a federal judge rule that Bohana caused Jackson's death, which would give her children the right to make claims on his assets.

Jackson was married to singer Tito Jackson for 16 years before they divorced in 1988. The lawsuit against Bohana was filed on behalf of the couple's children: Tariano Jackson, 22, Taryll Jackson, 20, and Tito Joe Jackson, 17, Oxman said.

Katherine Jackson, mother of Michael and Tito and the executor of Delores Jackson's estate, is also named as a plaintiff.

The lawsuit alleges that Bohana assaulted Jackson over a four-hour period and killed her by holding her head under water in the swimming pool, then dialed 911 and told an emergency operator that someone had fallen into his pool. In the document, which specifically alleges wrongful death, assault and battery, the family seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages against Bohana.

Oxman said Jackson's family has also asked state Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren to assign one of his attorneys to prosecute the case and to investigate possible malfeasance on the part of Garcetti.

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In a nine-page memorandum sent along with a letter dated Aug. 22 and other documents to Lungren's Sacramento office, Oxman alleges that a conflict of interest exists because Garcetti was embarrassed when accusations of sexual misconduct made by a teen-aged boy against Michael Jackson in the summer of 1993 turned out to be "unfounded."

The "wasted investigation [by Garcetti's office] does not justify allowing Delores Jackson's killer, who literally beat her to death, to walk the streets of Los Angeles," Oxman's letter argues.

"We are disturbed at the retaliatory actions of the Los Angeles County district attorney directed at the Jackson family in refusing to prosecute Bohana," Oxman wrote in the letter to Lungren.

The coroner's report made public in November said that Delores Jackson died of "asphyxia, due to or as a consequence of drowning, alcohol intake and blunt-force traumatic injuries." According to Oxman, after Jackson's death on Aug. 27, as many as 58 cuts, bruises and abrasions were found on her body.

Oxman also contends that sheriff's investigators recommended to prosecutors that murder charges be filed against Bohana for allegedly drowning Jackson, a woman who friends and family members say would never enter a pool because she did not know how to swim.

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Neither of the detectives who Oxman says made the statements could be reached for comment.

Bohana, who has had his share of financial problems in the past, gained fame a few years ago when he opened the first sit-down restaurant in the Watts-Willowbrook area since the 1965 Watts riots.

But two years after the Denny's restaurant opened, Bohana was ousted as manager and executives of the Denny's chain took over the business, claiming that Bohana had never made a payment on a $735,000 low-interest loan he used to build the restaurant. Bohana had also purchased the troubled California Life Insurance Co. in 1982, but in 1988 the company was placed in a conservatorship by the state, which declared the company insolvent.

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