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Memorial event for Michael Jackson still under discussion

Services at Staples Center and Neverland are considered, as well as a 125-mile funeral procession from L.A. to the Santa Barbara County ranch. Crowds gather at the ranch and officials prepare.

July 01, 2009|Ari B. Bloomekatz

LOS OLIVOS, CALIF. — Among the unanswered questions surrounding Michael Jackson's death is: Where will services for the pop icon be held? There has been talk of Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles or some combination of the two, but nothing has been finalized.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Jackson family continued planning a memorial event, including the possibility of a public ceremony at Staples Center followed by a funeral procession to Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., a source told The Times. Once at Neverland, friends, family and music industry members would participate in a service.

Family members talked to the Los Angeles Police Department on Tuesday about funeral arrangements but nothing was decided. Law enforcement officials in Santa Barbara County, however, said that they have not been told of any ceremony in Los Angeles, nor have they been approached by the Jackson family about services at Neverland, where massive crowds would be likely.

Although plans remain unsettled, law enforcement agencies and Santa Barbara County officials have been preparing for such an event for days. On Tuesday, officials and Sheriff's Department representatives met twice to discuss the logistics involved in a memorial procession to Neverland.

Officials believe the event would be so popular that cars would stretch unbroken for 125 miles between Los Angeles and the Santa Ynez Valley, where Neverland is located. Plans are already being discussed to shut down Figueroa Mountain Road, the twisting rural lane outside the ranch.

"We don't want to get caught behind the eight ball here," said Lt. Butch Arnoldi of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

Television vans and other news vehicles have started to line up along the road outside Neverland. Sightseers regularly drive to the ranch to take pictures while fans are beginning to gather outside the gates, where mementos for Jackson have been left.

Outside Neverland on Tuesday, Kyle Forsyth, who described himself as the ranch manager, told a few dozen spectators, fans and news reporters that he had no official statement to make about funeral plans.

"We are just preparing for whatever," Forsyth said.

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ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

Times staff writers Catherine Saillant, Ruben Vives, Harriet Ryan and Dan Weikel also contributed to this report.

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