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Family Battles over Custody of 'Uranium King'

Family Battles over Custody of 'Uranium King'

Posted - Nov. 23, 2003 at 11:04 p.m.



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John Hollenhorst reporting Court battles are looming in Utah and Colorado over the custody, and the remaining fortune, of Charlie Steen. He was once one of Utah's richest and most famous residents.

But now his whereabouts are a closely guarded secret, thanks to one faction of his bitterly divided family.

It's one of Utah's great legends. In 1952 Charlie Steen was a penniless prospector who struck it rich with the biggest uranium discovery ever. By the 1970's The Uranium King was bankrupt. But just enough of his fortune is left to fuel a fierce family feud.

This is what Charlie Steen looked like a few months ago. Seemingly vigorous and healthy at 83. But family members say The Uranium King suffers from Alzheimer's.

Last month a social worker found him alone at a Longmont, Colorado townhouse.

He was unable to remember anything for more than a few seconds and was wearing urine-stained sweatpants. The residence was cluttered, dirty, smelling of urine.

Steen's son Mark manages his father's affairs. In court last month he said his brother John lived with their father and just didn't happen to be home.

But another brother, Andrew, says John and Mark are guilty of neglect.

ANDREW STEEN/CHARLIE'S SON: "WELL THE SOCIAL WORKERS WENT TWO TIMES TO CHECK UP ON HIM AND HE WAS ALONE ON BOTH OCCASIONS."

The four Steen brothers split into factions long ago. Andrew accuses Mark of frittering away the remnants of their father's fortune.

He's fighting for control of family assets including hundreds of acres in Moab, and the Uranium King's former home, now the well-known Mi Vida restaurant overlooking Moab.

When their mother died in 1997, her handwritten will took sides, specifically disowning Andrew and Charles, Jr.

She left each just $1.00.

Mark and John apparently remain closest to their father. They've refused to speak to us.

But an acquaintance says Mark loves his father and would never deliberately neglect him.

When we visited the town house, no one was there; Mark and John have moved the Uranium King to a secret location. A judge later ordered Mark to tell authorities where his father is so they can monitor his welfare. Andrew believes his father is in a nursing home or hospital, but Mark and John are still keeping it secret from him.

ANDREW STEEN/CHARLIE'S SON: "THEY WON'T LET ME SPEAK TO HIM."

Andrew says he expects Mark to bring their father to a court hearing in Boulder, Colorado on December 2nd. Andrew hopes to get custody so he can move his father to a nursing home in Utah.

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