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Tobacco heiress Doris Duke was the only child of American tobacco baron, James Duke. When she was born, the press called her the "million dollar baby."
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Although the allegations went unproven, Duke fled with Lafferty to her Beverly Hills home, where she sank into a deep depression. At this point, she severed relations with Chandi, giving Lafferty total control over her household.
Now 79, Duke was encouraged by Lafferty to have a series of operations, including a face-lift and knee replacement surgery. The latter operation was unsuccessful, leaving Duke indefinitely confined to a wheelchair. Increasingly frail and disoriented, she signed a will relinquishing her fortune to Lafferty, in April of 1993. Shortly after, Lafferty’s actions took a sinister turn when he refused to call an ambulance as Duke was choking on a piece of food. After a summer in and out of the hospital, Duke returned home, where she was heavily sedated with painkillers. These high doses of morphine culminated in her death on October 28, 1993, a few weeks short of her 81st birthday. An autopsy was not performed, and she was cremated within 24 hours, after which her ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean.
Lafferty’s reign came to an end after Duke’s lawyers accused him of manipulating her fortune. After a wealth of speculation surrounding Duke’s death, a California court deemed Lafferty unfit to handle such an important charity (upon her death, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation was worth an estimated $1.2 billion). He relinquished his position and retreated to Los Angeles, where he died three years later.
In 1996, after an 18-month investigation, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office concluded there was not any credible evidence to suggest that Duke was murdered.
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation continues its philanthropic efforts, recently awarding grants to performing arts centers in New Jersey and Massachusetts.
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