Daughter of Casey Kasem breaks her silence about dad's death
SEATTLE -- The daughter of the legendary Casey Kasem, host of "American Top 40" radio and TV show, is breaking her silence about the death of her famous father following a very public national drama played out near Seattle last year.
In her first full interview about it, Kerri Kasem explained how her famous father was kept from his family by his second wife, and the legal battle to get him back - even though it was too late to save his life.
"The doctor said, quote, 'what was done to this man was inhumane'," she said.
She warns it is the same nightmare that thousands of families face every year. And, she said, she intends to do something about it.
Casey Kasem was a friend of an entire generation, and Kerri said she is "so proud of my dad!"
Kerri Kasem says her famous dad, despite a divorce, was always there for his kids even at the height of his career. But Kerri accuses his second wife Jean Kasem of isolating him in his ailing years, eventually taking him to a tiny house near Bremerton despite his grave condition.
"Adult children don't have the rights to ask for visitation to an ailing parent," she said. "The only people that can give visitation is a spouse, a guardian, a conservator. And if any of those people say no, sorry - you're never going to see your dad or mom again."
Kerri would have none of it. When a judge finally ruled in her favor, she went in that house to see Casey Kasem.
"He was so, so sick. And to be stuck in a house - he was sweating when I saw him. He had a fan above him. He had - I mean, this isn't a place for a man that had enough money for the best medical care possible."
The doctor and judge immediately ordered Casey Kasem to the hospital. Kerri Kasem said her father was ill with rampant infections, bedsores, fluid in his lungs, twisted legs and much more.
Here's how she described to KOMO 4 News what happened once she and her siblings finally got their dad to a hospital in Gig Harbor: "I remember getting pulled aside the first half hour we were in the hospital and they were, 'your dad doesn't have long.' That's what they said they first brought him in."
Casey Kasem died 15 days later.
We asked if he knew Kerri was with him: "Yes, there were times he would come out of it a little bit, and look at us and hold our hands. And then, what was so horrible was the first week we tried so hard to save him."
Kerri finally allowed doctors to let his life pass.
"And, uh," she paused, beginning to choke up, "that was the hardest decision of my life."
She lays the blame squarely on inadequate laws and Jean Kasem.
"I don't know how you do that to someone," she said, wiping away tears. "It's not human."
Kerri Kasem has now assembled a team and is lobbying state lawmakers and legislative staffers at a massive national convention in Seattle this week, the National Conference of State Legislatures, intent on changing the law in every single state. She has already helped pass "visitation" laws in California, Iowa and Texas.
She looks like a busy lobbyist working the crowd. Everyone at her exhibit table knew of her father. Many knew of the painful fight she had in his final days.
Kerri said she'd particularly like to see the law passed in Washington, where her father died, and she's discussing with Washington state lawmakers now.
Her foundation includes the lawyer who fought her case, and he says the laws are weak and un-enforced.
"Yea, it's sort of like spousal abuse or domestic violence was 20-30 years ago," said Troy Martin. "The authorities don't want to enforce it. They don't want to get involved in what they perceive to be a 'family dispute'."
It's easy to assume that someone would call the bill drafted by her foundation after her father. But Kerri wants to avoid tying it to a celebrity.
"I don't think he wants to be remembered for the horrific abuse that he went through," she said. "He wants to be remembered for his accomplishments, his humanitarianism."
She explained other celebrities have been drawn into news coverage about their family disputes.
"It's not the Mickey Rooney bill. It's not the Casey Kasem bill. It's not the Peter Faulk bill. It's not the BB King bill. It's the Visitation Bill for everybody. Not just celebrities that go through this. I've had thousands of letters on this from people across the country, talking about the horrific situations that they're in," Kerri Kasem said.
In Casey Kasem's final hours, he was finally surrounded again by his entire extended family, holding hands, praying, and admiring his life.
"Yeah, we played some of the older American Top 40 shows," she remembered fondly. "We all sat around his bed and played his show for him. He liked to listen to his show."
"On his bed - my brother took a picture - my sister and I - this is how we slept and we just laid our head there and that's how we slept. We just didn't want to leave him. He'd been left for so long!" she said. "At least my dad was surrounded by love and he knew he was surrounded by love. And he knew."