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Oklahoma woman leaves money to Elian family before suicide

MIAMI (Reuters) -- An Oklahoma woman who committed suicide last month rewrote her will to exclude her own kin and leave part of her $500,000 estate to the Miami relatives of Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez, the Miami Herald reported Sunday.

Anne Katherine Abernathy, 57, also left part of her estate to the Amirault family of Massachusetts, who were involved in a controversial child-abuse case, the Herald reported. Abernathy had never met either family.

Abernathy, who was not married, shot herself to death on July 20 at her home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, just hours after her elderly mother, who had shared the house, died of natural causes.

The Herald said Abernathy rewrote her will in a four-page note just before she killed herself to delete 12 relatives and friends. It said that in the note, Abernathy praised the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez, who waged an abortive seven-month battle to keep the 6-year-old in the United States, for treating the child with "such love."

Elian was taken into his great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez's Miami home last November after surviving a disastrous migrant voyage from Cuba in which his mother and 10 other people died. Against the wishes of child's father, who wanted his son back in communist Cuba, the Miami relatives fought to keep Elian "free" in a case that became an international cause celebre and went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Elian finally returned to Cuba with his father in June after the Supreme Court rejected the relatives' bid for him to be granted a political asylum hearing.

It was not immediately possible to contact the Miami relatives over the Herald report.

Lazaro Gonzalez, a car mechanic, and his family are immigrants of modest means and the house Elian shared with them was a small single-story home in Miami's Little Havana.

But the Miami relatives may never see the Abernathy money since relatives deleted from the bequest are contesting the will saying she had been mentally incapacitated for years.

The other family to whom Abernathy left her money was a mother, daughter and son convicted in 1986 of child abuse related to the day-care center they ran. The mother and daughter were freed a decade later after an appeal and the son's case is pending before a pardons board, the Herald said.

It said Abernathy also left her dog to a university president and her notes and photos to a newspaper columnist.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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