LOS ANGELES, June 28 (Reuters) - Michael Jackson dressed his three children over the years with veils and masks and even famously dangled one from a balcony.
But in the wake of the troubled pop star’s sudden death, his protective family has sought to give Prince Michael, 12, Paris Katherine, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7, a sense of normalcy.
Since Jackson, 50, died on Thursday after suffering cardiac arrest at his Los Angeles home, his family has cared for the children and closely guarded them from the media.
On Sunday, the singer’s father said in a statement — read by a representative at his side on an awards show red carpet — that he and his wife have sole authority over the King of Pop’s children.
The mother of the two oldest children is Deborah Rowe, a former dermatology nurse married to Jackson from 1996 to 1999. The mother of the youngest child, who is also called Blanket and whom Jackson infamously dangled from a Berlin hotel balcony in 2002, has never been identified.
While Rowe has remained quiet about her plans, some legal experts have speculated she could seek custody of her two children and receive financial help from Jackson’s estate to raise them.
But Joe Jackson moved quickly to dispel any doubts over his family’s resolve to look over the children.
“Michael’s children are our first priority,” Joe Jackson said in Sunday’s statement.
“We will have further announcements to discuss our plans going forward. Until such time, however, we have the personal and legal authority to act, and solely Katherine and I have authority for our son and his children.”
An attorney for Rowe could not be reached for comment.
Stacy Brown, a Jackson family confidant and co-author of “Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask,” told Reuters the children with Rowe have always had minimal contact with their biological mother.
Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader who was with the Jackson family last week, told People magazine the Jackson family was taking good care of the kids.
“I’ve seen the children,” Jackson told People. “They go out in the yard and play with their cousins. Happily playing. They are at the grandparents home, secure and happy.”
Jackson in 2005 was tried and acquitted of child molestation against a boy not related to him. While his parenting skills were often questioned in the media, family friends have described him as a doting father. (Editing by Mary Milliken and Todd Eastham)