CHICAGO (CN) – A nurse stole a dead man’s Elvis Presley memorabilia and put it up for sale, the man’s family says. The federal lawsuit reflects well on The King, who paid for medical care and lavished gifts upon Sterling Gary Pepper Jr., who suffered from cerebral palsy and was president of Presley’s fan club. Among the keepsakes Presley gave Pepper were a gold jumpsuit, a lock of hair, a 1957 Chevy and autographed photos of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, according to the complaint.
The family says Presley paid for Pepper’s nursing services, which were provided by defendant Nancy Pease Whitehead.
After Elvis died in 1977, Pepper was moved to a home for disabled people in Iowa because the Presley estate would no longer pay Whitehead to take care of him, according to the complaint.
Pepper’s cousin and closest relative, John Tate, says he decided to bring Pepper to California to be closer to family, and upon arriving at Pepper’s Tennessee home, found the house empty. He claims Whitehead had removed all Pepper’s belongings “without Mr. Pepper’s nor anyone else’s knowledge or consent.”
The family claims that Whitehead put the memorabilia up sale through Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, and has admitted that the items belonged to Pepper and were taken from his home.
Pepper died in 1980 and his family says they had no idea of the whereabouts of the memorabilia until they heard about the auction on the news.
Chicago media have reported that Whitehead claims Pepper gave her the memorabilia, and will donate half of the auction proceeds to United Cerebral Palsy of the Mid-South.
Hindman told CBS 2 that he thought the lock of hair alone could sell for up to $100,000, but hair it was sold at the Oct. 18 auction for $15,000.
Pepper’s family accuses Whitehead and Leslie Hindman Auctioneers of conversion. They demand at least $75,000 and restoration of the property.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer denied the family’s motion for a temporary restraining order, but ordered Leslie Hindman to hold auction proceeds in escrow until the suit is resolved.
Pepper’s family is represented by Jason Williams with Sawyier & Williams.
The complaint does not state what happened to the gold jumpsuit.