Heirs of the late Wizard of Oz "Munchkin," actor Mickey Carroll, are suing his caretaker for control of his assets.
Carroll died in St. Louis, Mo., on Thursday at age 89. He had been suffering from a heart condition and advanced Alzheimer's disease.
His eight heirs have claimed in a lawsuit filed in Clayton, Mo., that his caretaker, Linda Dodge, has taken control of his assets and put them "in imminent danger of continued dissipation, waste and theft."
Dodge had been caring for Carroll, one of the last surviving Munchkins from the 1939 movie, and his disabled nephew in her home since the beginning of this year. She still looks after the nephew, 54-year-old Frank Parenti, who is suffering from cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair.
On Jan. 7, Carroll signed a durable power of attorney transferring control of his investments and assets to Dodge. He signed a second power of attorney giving her authority to make medical decisions for him.
Patrick J. McCarthy, the lawyer acting for Carroll's heirs, estimated in the lawsuit that Carroll's income was about $100,000 US a year from savings, investments and government pensions. Carroll had chequing accounts totalling about $300,000 US, a $500,000 account with Merrill Lynch and a home worth about $132,000, McCarthy said.
The Wizard of Oz was the only movie Carroll was in, and he spent many years working in the family business in St. Louis making cemetery monuments. But, after the film appeared on television in the 1960s, he found a new career raising money for charity and attending Oz-related events.
Carroll's heirs said he was mentally incompetent to sign the legal papers earlier this year and claimed that Dodge took advantage of his condition.
Dodge has called the allegations "foolish" and disputes the amount of Carroll's assets. "If I were taking so much money, why are we still making car payments …and payments on my credit card," she said in an interview on Friday with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
She said she and Carroll had been friends for more than 20 years since they met at a fundraiser.
Dodge said she moved Carroll and Parenti into the home where she lives with her husband on Jan. 2 because they needed help.
"I took care of a friend that I treated like a family member," she said.
In the lawsuit, Carroll's niece, Janet Finocchiaro of Dallas, questioned why her uncle had been moved out of his home and into a single room he shared with Parenti.
The suit also alleged that Dodge had severed Carroll's relationship with relatives and was keeping him in virtual isolation.
A medical report by Dr. Prithui P. Singh, who examined Carroll on April 9, was attached to the suit. It said Carroll was incapable of doing simple tasks or calculations, or recalling important events in his life.
The heirs want the probate court in St. Louis Country to freeze Carroll's assets immediately and appoint someone other than Dodge to look after them.