A nurse for the late billionaire Doris Duke has said in a sworn affidavit that the heiress did not die of natural causes, as Duke’s doctor has insisted, but rather was injected with fatal doses of morphine after the doctor said it was “time for Miss Duke to go.”
While the doctor was administering the morphine to Duke at her Beverly Hills, Calif., home on Oct. 27, 1993, nurse Tammy Payette said in the affidavit, a lawyer who wrote Duke’s will and a butler, named in the will as executor of Duke’s $1.2 billion estate, stood by and asked how long it would take for the 80-year-old woman to die.
Duke died the following day. Her body was immediately cremated. Payette said that, in her view, the elderly heiress could have lived as long as five more years.
The doctor, Charles F. Kivowitz, contends Duke was terminally ill and was being given morphine to relieve her pain.
Payette’s affidavit and a series of other charges concerning the conduct of Duke’s doctors, estate lawyers and butler prompted New York Surrogate’s Court Judge Eve Preminger Friday to order an investigation by an independent counsel.
Preminger, who is presiding over an increasingly sensational legal battle for control of Duke’s estate, named Richard H. Kuh, a former New York district attorney, to investigate all allegations of wrongdoing and report to her in 45 days.
“None of these allegations have been proven, and they may turn out to be entirely meritless,” Preminger said. “However, sufficient questions have been raised and documentation offered to require investigation.”
Duke’s April 1993 will bequeaths to her butler, Bernard Lafferty, $500,000 a year for life, names him executor of her estate and gives him control over a charitable foundation that is to receive most of Duke’s fortune. As executor, Lafferty is entitled to $5 million in fees.
The validity of the will was challenged by Duke’s adopted daughter, Chandi Heffner, who had been disinherited, and by a former financial adviser, Irwin Bloom, both of whom are engaged in settlement talks with lawyers for the estate.
The will also is under challenge by a former Duke doctor, Harry B. Demopoulos, whom Duke had named executor in a prior will, dated in 1991.
In waves of allegations, the challengers have accused Lafferty, a former maitre d’ at Philadelphia’s old Bellevue Stratford hotel, of:
Making death threats, verbally and in scrawled notes, against those who have opposed him.
Spending $60,000 of Duke’s money on designer clothes and other luxuries not long before she died.
Going on drug and alcohol binges that have resulted in his being hospitalized since Duke’s death.
Crashing a $54,000 Cadillac purchased with estate money into a Beverly Hills nightclub while driving at 60 mph on June 2, 1994.