In early July, I wrote about a Michael Jackson family connection to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills ~ namely, the grave site of his maternal grandmother, Martha Bridges, who is buried in the Sheltering Hills section.
Avid Jackson fans have since asked about another long-rumored Jackson family connection there, Tito Jackson's ex-wife, Delores "Dee Dee" Jackson. Was she buried there after her 1994 murder, and if so, where?
I checked with the Forest Lawn records department and a very nice young lady there politely apologized when she informed me that no such burial information could be located in their files. No suprises there.
Next I consulted my network of Forest Lawn experts, including "The Godfather of Graving" Roger Sinclair, my friend and grave hunting mentor who has been documenting Los Angeles cemeteries for over 30 years. They each confirmed for me that Dee Dee is indeed buried at FLHH and gave me specific directions to her grave.
As a result, my trusty sidekick Fifi and I easily found the memorial tablet that marks her interment site, nestled in an unassuming garden plot on a terrace in the Court of Liberty. It is situated just yards away from the Hall of Liberty where the Jackson family gathered for Michael's viewing and private ceremony prior to his public memorial at the Staples Center. She is interred with mother, Irma Estevez Martes.
Dee Dee and Tito were married from 1972-1988. Together they had three sons ~ TJ, Taryll and Taj ~ who are also known as the musical trio 3t, a moniker based on her nickname for them, "the three T's." Like her mother-in-law, Katherine Jackson, she was a beloved, loving and supportive maternal presence in their lives.
Tito and Dee Dee (courtesy of Claude Thines)
This summer marked the 15th anniversary of her death at the age of 39. On August 27, 1994, her body was found at the bottom of the swimming pool at the Ladera Heights home of Los Angeles businessman, Donald Bohana. whom she had recently begun dating.
Bohanan initially told Los Angeles County Sheriff investigators that he had been swimming with Dee Dee around 4 a.m., and that he had briefly left the scene, only to return moments later to find her submerged. He reportedly called 911 after pulling her body from the water. She was taken by ambulance to nearby Daniel Freeman Hospital in Inglewood where she was pronounced dead.
The case appeared to be an accidental drowning, but subsequent autopsy results suggested that the drowning may have been "assisted." Her cause of death was listed as "asphyxia, due to or as a consequence of drowning, alcohol intake and blunt-force traumatic injuries" that included cuts on her lips, tongue and ears, a bruise on her head and muscle hemorrhages in her neck.
Based on this evidence, the district attorney's office re-opened the case in November 1994. Bohana was not immediately arrested nor was he ruled out as a suspect. A year later, the case remained open with no one charged with the murder.
Dee Dee and her sons Taryll, Taj and TJ (image © To The Tee)
Screen capture from video shot six months before her death
Her frustrated family pursued justice themselves in the name of her sons. They filed their own suit with the state attorney general, alleging that the financially troubled Bohana killed Dee Dee in a fit of rage when she refused to use her Jackson connections to bail him out of bankruptcy.
Their case proved solid, and on November 23, 1998, Bohana was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, where it is believed he remains today. (If anyone has updated information on this, please let me know.)
The price Dee Dee paid for having a famous name was her life, forever and senselessly ripped from the fabric of this family. But more importantly, I think, she should be remembered for being a cherished human being and individual in her own right. As her marker states, she was a daughter, mother, sister and friend who was loved and unquestionably missed.
Her son Taj's website at DeeDeesKid.com has long been dedicated to her memory.
See more about Dee Dee in this clip from the 1998 Fox Family Channel program "Famous Families," where she is remembered during the episode "The Jacksons: The First Family of Pop," again, courtesy of 3tmemories:
Her sons continue to make the music she loved. After her death they made a video of the song "Why" with their Uncle Michael. Among its subtle undertones are images of a woman in a swimming pool and the lyrics "Why do we love if love will die?" See it here on the official Michael Jackson YouTube channel.
Rest in peace, Dee Dee.