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Organs from Body of George Halas Jr. Were Replaced with Sawdust

September 5, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ Internal organs were removed from the body of George Halas Jr. and replaced with sawdust, according to a court document that sheds new light on a dispute over the estate of the son of the man who founded football’s Chicago Bears.

″Such complete removal and disposal of organs is most unusual and a cause for concern,″ Dr. Michael M. Baden, a forensic pathologist, said in a statement submitted Friday.

The younger Halas’ death Dec. 16, 1979, was ascribed to a massive heart attack, but his body was disinterred and and subjected to a second autopsy last month at the request of his former wife, Therese, and her two children.

″The absence of the internal organs markedly diminishes the ability at this time to find drugs or poisons that might have been present at the time of death,″ said Baden, a former New York City medical examiner.

Baden’s statement said the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, spleen, gall bladder, testes and even the spinal cord had been removed from the body and replaced with sawdust.

The second autopsy was ordered as part of a bitter court battle between the heirs of the late George Halas Sr. about whether the National Football League pioneer intended to provide equally for all of his 13 grandchildren.

Attorney William J. Harte, who represents the younger Halas’ son and daughter, says he will appear Tuesday before Cook County Circuit Judge Arthur L. Dunne to request depositions given by 15 physicians, paramedics and police officers in connection with the 1979 autopsy performed on Halas Jr.

Harte said Sept. 13 is the deadline for filing a wrongful death action if it should appear that Halas Jr.’s death was not due to natural causes. It is also the deadline for filing a double indemnity life insurance claim.

The former Mrs. Halas, who was divorced from the son of the late Chicago Bears founder, said she and the children had lingering doubts about the cause of her former husband’s death.

The younger Halas’ children, Christine, 21, and Stephen, 19, contend Halas Sr. failed to protect their interest by allowing a 1981 reorganization of the Bears.

The death of Halas Jr. preceded his father’s by four years. His children inherited his nearly 20 percent stake in the club.

Christine and Stephen Halas contend their grandfather, as a trustee of their father’s estate, was responsible for notifying them before going through with a reorganization that effectively put the family of Halas’ only other child, Virginia Halas McCaskey, in effective control of the franchise.

The McCaskey family has cemented its control of the club since the reorganization.

Virginia Halas McCaskey’s husband, Edward, is chairman of the board of the Bears. And the oldest of their 11 children, Michael, 43, is club president and chief executive officer.

Halas Jr.’s family and the administrators of his estate contend the reorganization has depressed the value of their 19.6 percent share of the Bears.

That’s because the reorganization gives the club’s five directors - including Virginia, Edward and Michael McCaskey - the right of first refusal if a stockholder wants to sell.

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