The family feud that means Mickey Rooney's body is still unclaimed

Ben Arnold
Yahoo Movies UK
Rooney... family fued means that his body remains unclaimed (Copyright: Rex)

The death of Mickey Rooney earlier this week at the age of 93 has reinvigorated the shocking feud between the late actor and members of his family, littered as it is with claims of physical and mental abuse, and accusations of huge sums of money going missing.

The rift means that currently, Rooney's body remains unclaimed at the mortuary of the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, according to reports.

Rooney's eighth wife Jan, also known as Jan Chamberlain - the former nightclub singer he married in 1978 - and her son Christopher Aber had reportedly attempted to remove his body from the mortuary, according to the Los Angeles Times, to be buried in the plot next to Chamberlain's.

But they were refused, after court papers said it would have been against his wishes. A lawyer for Rooney said that being buried near to Aber in their family plot would be 'the cruelest indignity'.

[Mickey Rooney died with just £11,000 and cut family from will]

The move paints an ugly picture of the dealings between Rooney and his family, which was first brought to light in 2011, when Rooney filed a lawsuit and a restraining order against his wife and Christopher, who had acted as his personal assistant for 30 years.

It claimed that Aber had been syphoning off money from the actor for many years, and that he 'threatens, intimidates, bullies and harasses Mickey'.

It's thought that Aber had installed himself as the treasurer of Rooney's production company Densmore Productions, which had allowed him control of the actor's purse strings and live a lavish lifestyle, buying houses and expensive cars, while telling the actor he was broke.

It's also alleged that Aber witheld food and medication from the actor, and failed to pay his mortgage and taxes for him.

Rooney's attorney Michael Augustine said: “We had evidence that he had stolen $8 million [over the years], but we knew that we were not going to collect it. Aber didn't sock money away, he put it up his nose.”

[Mickey Rooney: 10 things you might not know]

Aber, who is now bankrupt, has strongly denied any wrong-doing, and has lashed out instead at his brother Mark, who with his wife Charlene looked after Rooney for the last years of his life at their rented apartment in Studio City, Los Angeles, accusing him of stealing and selling some of Rooney's possessions on eBay.

“I caught him,” Aber told the Hollywood Reporter. “And then, in order to defuse [the situation], he got a restraining order on me and told Mickey that I did it.

“My brother, whom [Rooney] died in front of, didn't even have the decency to call my mom [upon Rooney’s death].”

Indeed, Jan Rooney claims that the first she heard of Rooney's death was when she was called from celebrity gossip site TMZ.

Aber has even suggested that Mark was guilty of negligence, and accused him of keeping the actor 'a hostage'.

“Well, he choked on his own food when he died, that’s how he died, they should have been looking after him. No-one was there to pat him on the back? I found out when I spoke to the doctors,” he said.

It's been reported that Rooney died after suffering breathing problems following an afternoon nap.

[Mickey Rooney, legendary actor, dies at 93]

Countering, Augustine said: “[Mark and Charlene] have done every conceivable thing for Mickey - and mostly without compensation, because Mickey didn't have enough money. When Mickey had the money to pay them, he gave them a modest stipend.”

Augustine has told of evidence of physical abuse against the actor too, while he lived with his wife.

“Mickey had a tooth knocked out, he had a black eye, he ostensibly fell down the stairs. So Mickey, I felt, was physically in peril,” he said.

“In July 2012, I moved Mickey away. All of a sudden, Mickey's appearance and everything about Mickey improved. He started working again and he was doing much better.”

After Rooney appointed Augustine in 2011, the actor appeared at a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Ageing in Washington, giving testimony of his experiences, saying that the Abers had made his life 'unbearable'.

In an emotional speech, he said: “I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated. Because of your love for other family members, you might feel hesitant to come forward, but I want to tell you this: You are not alone and you have nothing to be ashamed of.

“If elder abuse happened to me, it can happen to anyone. I want you to know you deserve better.”

Mark Rooney and his wife were named the sole benefactors of Rooney's estate, which amounted to just £11,000 for a lifetime's work in the movies. At one time Rooney was the highest-paid actor in Hollywood.

Augustine also spoke for the plans for Rooney's funeral. Rooney had said that he wanted to be buried at a veterans cemetery or at a Hollywood cemetery next to other actors.

“There will probably be a family-only ceremony, to which [Jan] will be invited, along with his [biological] children [and Mark and Charlene Aber],” he told THR.

As to whether the Christopher Aber would be invited, he added: “I would say no. Jan, yes, but Chris and Christina are thieves. You want to quote me on that, be my guest. They can sue me. F**k 'em.

“They're not in the same category as a wife of 30-some years. She made a bad choice but, in her defense, it's pretty difficult when you're between your son and your husband.”