Daughter claims widow wants to sell it, evict her over hate of son-in-law
Lee Marvin won an Oscar for his dual portrayal of the hero and villain who meet in a dramatic showdown in “Cat Ballou.”
Two decades after the legendary actor died in Tucson of a heart attack, his widow and her oldest daughter are headed for a legal showdown in Pima County Superior Court over an Oro Valley property worth about $500,000.
Attorneys for Marvin’s widow, Pamela, 78, say in court records that the home occupied for 25 years by Wendy and Fred King, her daughter and son-in-law, should be sold and the proceeds divided according to longstanding arrangements.
The survivors trust that Marvin manages in the wake of her husband’s death would get 81 percent of the proceeds, with Wendy King, 58, receiving the remaining 19 percent, Marvin’s attorneys say.
The Kings’ attorney, Brick P. Storts III, said in court records that Lee Marvin intended the property as part of Wendy King’s inheritance and that Pamela Marvin is trying to punish her daughter.
Pamela Marvin’s attorneys said in motions that the Kings “claim that Mr. Marvin verbally gave the property to them, free and clear . . . even though the recorded real property and estate documents all say otherwise.”
Pamela Marvin and her attorneys “respectfully declined” to comment for this article, said one of her attorneys, Russell Stowers.
Storts referred to motions he filed in court, saying, “This is an unfortunate situation that developed and is being done for totally vindictive reasons.”
Marvin’s attorneys sought a summary judgment from Judge Michael Miller, saying Wendy King’s claim that Lee Marvin promised her the house as an inheritance wasn’t admissible in court under Arizona’s so-called “Dead Man’s Statute” and that the Kings never formalized the house as her inheritance while Lee Marvin’s will went through probate court.
Storts, the Kings’ lawyer, disagreed. “Lee Marvin’s statements . . . highlight the lingering question that hangs over this litigation,” he wrote in court documents.
“(Why) is Pamela Marvin, the wealthy widow of Lee Marvin and matriarch of an extended family that has lived in Tucson for decades and who owns numerous properties here and elsewhere, attempting to undermine her deceased husband’s wishes and deprive her oldest daughter and son-in-law of the property on which they have lived, raised children, and built improvements for more than 25 years?
“The answer, which will be made clear at trial, has nothing to do with money,” Storts wrote.
“(Pamela Marvin’s) motive is not rooted in a good faith desire to liquidate an asset, but in the bad faith desire of a controlling matriarch to punish a daughter who refuses to bow to her wishes.”
Storts said in court documents that Pamela Marvin pushed her daughter to get a divorce after Fred King, now 54, was charged with child molestation in 2005.
In a letter prosecutors submitted to the court in Fred King’s case, Marvin wrote that the situation “has torn a very close and loving family apart.”
“We miss my daughter Wendy dreadfully and worry about her safety,” Pamela Marvin wrote. “My very strong feeling is that (she) has become a ‘battered’ woman – not physically, but mentally, separated from her lifelong family by a very manipulative person – and probably by her own feelings of unbearable guilt.”
In a presentence report, Fred King told a probation officer the case against him “is the result of his mother-in-law’s attempt to force his wife to leave him.”
“They never liked me,” said King, a former professional rodeo cowboy. “I was never good enough.”
In her letter, Marvin denied shunning him.
“He was never disliked by any of us; the opposite was true,” she wrote.
Fred King was indicted on five child molestation charges involving two minor girls. A hung jury resulted in a mistrial.
King pleaded guilty to one charge, saying he couldn’t bear to endure another trial, and was sentenced to a year in jail and lifetime probation as a sex offender.
Wendy King maintained her husband’s innocence, according to his presentence report.
“Although my side of the family has huge issues and Fred is their monster, we as a family are very supportive and whatever he needs to heal, we’ll make sure he gets it,” Wendy King said in the presentence report.
Court records show Wendy King filed for divorce in October 2005, but never followed through and the petition was dismissed.
When Pamela Marvin’s attempts at having her daughter get a divorce failed, “she resorted to threats and emotional manipulation,” Storts wrote in motions.
“When that did not work, she played her trump card, an action for the partition and sale of the (Kings’) property, attempting to evict her daughter and grandchildren from their home along with the son-in-law she despises.”
Storts asked that Judge Miller dismiss the lawsuit or rule in his clients’ favor, saying, “It would be both improper and unjust for this court to become an instrument of plaintiff’s malice.”
Miller denied Pamela Marvin’s motion for a summary judgment last month, saying the legal issues raised were best decided at trial.
Unless a settlement is reached beforehand, the case is set for a one-day bench trial before Miller on Jan. 20.
HIGHLIGHTS OF LEE MARVIN’S CAREER
“The Dirty Dozen” (1967)
“The Big Red One” (1980)
“The Iceman Cometh” (1973)
“Paint Your Wagon” (1969)
“Cat Ballou” ((1965), for which he won an Academy Award for best actor
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962)
“Raintree County” (1957)
Movies filmed in southern Arizona:
“Monte Walsh” (1970)
“Pocket Money” (1972)