Judge Rules Dian Fossey's Will Invalid
HITHACA, N.Y. - A judge threw out the will of slain American zoologist Diane Fossey on Friday and said her mother should inherit her estate, including about $4.9 million in royalties from a recent book and upcoming movie.
"We are not satisfied that Dr. Fossey intended the purported will to be her last will and testament," state Supreme Court Judge Charles B. Swartwood wrote in his 19-page decision. "Our belief is to the contrary. This document was simply a draft of her purported will and not a will at all." If the 1984 will had been ruled valid, Fossey's personal property and assets would have gone to her gorilla preservation group, The Digit Fund Inc., which is operated by Morris Animal Foundation of Englewood, Colo., and to four other people. Fossey didn't mention her family in the will.
Fossey's mother, Hazel Fossey Price and her husband, Richard C. Price, of Atherton, Calif., were elated by the judge's decision. "It was a just and fair decision on the part of the judge," Price said from Atherton. "Contrary to the testimony of the trial, we were very fine parents to Dian. She was one person we loved. But again you can't testify to that in court."
Price said he and his wife are working on a project to preserve the work their daughter did for the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, located in east-central Africa south of Uganda. Fossey was murdered with a machete Dec. 26, 1985 while working at the Karisoke Mountain Gorilla Research Center she started in 1967.
Almost one year after Fossey's death, a Rwanda court convicted in absentia former American wildlife researcher, Wayne Richard McGuire, 35, of New Jersey in her death. He denied the charge and the United States has no extradition treaty with Rwanda.
Fossey, who wrote "Gorillas In the Mist, was a visiting scientist and lecturer at Cornell University between 1980 and 1982. P. Stacey Coil, Fossey's personal secretary and vice president of the Digit Fund, said she was disappointed by the decision, but said it's unlikely she would appeal.
January 15, 1988