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Garcia vs. Garcia in battle for Grateful wealth

jerry lives December 14, 1996
Web posted at: 8:40 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Don Knapp

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- A court battle opened Friday in which one Garcia fought another over the estate of the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia.

Before Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack last year at a drug rehabilitation center, he was earning more than $2 million a year. His earnings were a sign of the following he and his band had built up over nearly 30 years, as Grateful Dead concerts kept packing fans in. Deadheads filled the concert halls and kept the band's coffers full of cash.

Now, his survivors are battling over his estate.

Deborah Koons Garcia

Garcia married filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia, his third wife, in 1994. Deborah says he was an artist, not a banker, which is why he left his business affairs in poor order.

"He really understood everything about concerts, everything about records, he was extraordinary that way. And that's one of the reasons he didn't really organize things as well as he could, because he just had that touch. Lots came in, lots went out. What the heck, more will come in," she told CNN.

After the star died, his widow stopped divorce settlement payments to his ex-wife, Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia. The guitarist, following the terms of their divorce, had paid Carolyn $400,000 between the time of their 1994 divorce and his death in August 1995.

Widow Garcia, through her attorney, claimed ex-wife Garcia manipulated the guitarist into signing a divorce settlement in which he promised to pay her $250,000 a year for the next 20 years, a total of $5 million. Garcia's attorney Deborah Koons claimed Jerry Garcia's marriage to Carolyn in 1981 was only a tax sham.


Carolyn, who maintains that the estate reneged on her divorce settlement, responded on the stand by reading a love letter from her then-husband. The letter was written while he was on tour in the mid-1980s. As she read it aloud on the stand, she appeared near the verge of tears.

"You tickle me with your sweet talk," she read. "I build up a vision of you on the bed and watch you form the words. Your mouth & special secret smiles & the corners of your mouth sweet to touch & kiss & exciting in a tender way.

"Your incredible eyes that dance & twinkle & flash & flirt & laugh & stun and also warm & soothe & speak of Deepest love. UNBELIEVABLE. I sink into you. I worship you. I love you on every level. EVERY WAY!!"

The letter was addressed to "Sweet Light" and signed "your devoted ugly jer."

The painful public trial is just one more reason Anabelle Garcia, one of the guitarist's four daughters, says she would never marry a rock star. "It's better to play it safe, and low key, and have a good quality of life, than to amass a large fortune and a lot of fame," she said.

It's not clear just how much money Garcia's estate is worth, although some observers have speculated that his holdings in business, art and music ventures are worth millions. Claims against it from ex-wives, lovers, and former business partners total more than $30 million.


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