Blues legend B.B. King — his health failing at age 89 — is in the middle of a tug of war between some of his children and his longtime manager.
Three of King's 11 surviving children appeared in a Las Vegas courtroom Thursday in a bid to take control of their father's affairs. Two said they suspect the musician's manager of stealing his money and neglecting his medical care. All three complained they were blocked from seeing him in home hospice care.
But a judge tossed the dispute out of court, saying two investigations found no evidence King was being abused and that King's longtime business manager, Laverne Toney, should remain in legal control of his affairs.
Toney and King's lead attorney, Brent Bryson, deny the theft allegations. They say King's children — including Karen Williams, Patty King, Rita Washington — can schedule visits as always.
King, who has diabetes, did not attend the court hearing.
Clark County Family Court Hearing Master Jon Norheim said police and social services investigations in October and April uncovered no reason to take power of attorney from Toney.
"I don't have anything here that says (King) lacks capacity," Norheim said. "He has some serious health issues. But he has counsel. If he feels like he's being taken advantage of, he has remedies."
Norheim said he could not consider daughter Karen Williams' petition to take over as King's guardian until all of King's children and grandchildren are legally notified.
The ruling doesn't prevent King's children from returning to court to press their claim once that happens.
"We lost the battle, but we haven't lost the war," Karen Williams vowed.
She and a family-nominated guardian, Fredrick Waid, sought appointment as temporary co-guardians in an April 29 petition. They said more than $5 million in assets was at stake.
Bryson said he couldn't comment on King's estate, which also is expected to include intellectual property rights and royalties.
The petition alleges Toney blocks King's friends — including musicians Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton — from visiting him. It also says Toney put her family members on King's payroll, and that large amounts of money have disappeared from King's bank accounts.
"The family has been unable to account for what is reported to be in excess of $1 million," the court document says.
Bryson called the theft allegation "almost laughable." He said all of King's spending was legitimate and accounted for.
King was hospitalized a week ago after police were called to his home in a dispute about his condition between Toney and Patty King. No one was arrested, and the musician returned home to hospice care shortly afterward.
B.B. King, born Riley B. King near the Mississippi farm town of Itta Bena, toured and performed almost continually until October, when he canceled the remaining shows in his 2014 tour after falling ill in Chicago with dehydration and exhaustion.
Las Vegas police were called to King's home in November on allegations of elder neglect and abuse. Officer Jesse Roybal said that case remains open, and no details were available.
King is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and a 15-time Grammy winner. He has released more than 50 albums and sold millions of records. He is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
King was married several times and had 15 biological and adoptive children. Four have died.
His eldest surviving daughter, Shirley King, who tours as "Daughter of the Blues," said the dispute between family members and Toney has brought disrespect to her father's legacy.
"I'm not too sure things are right," Shirley King said by telephone from her Chicago-area home. "But my dad would never want this."