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Mark Harmon Seeks Custody of Sister’s Child by Ricky Nelson

August 10, 1987 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Actor Mark Harmon and his wife, Pam Dawber, are seeking custody of Harmon’s 13-year-old nephew, son of sister Kristin and the late singer Rick Nelson, an attorney said Monday.

Harmon contends that his 42-year-old sister is unable to take care of Sam Nelson because of a drug dependency. Mrs. Nelson’s attorney, Carl Osborne, said his client has successfully completed a hospital program to end her dependency on prescription drugs.

The custody case is scheduled for a Tuesday trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Sam is the youngest of four children Mrs. Nelson had during her marriage to Nelson, including daughter Tracy, 23, and twins Matthew and Gunnar, 19.

According to an interview in this week’s Star magazine, Mrs. Nelson said the custody battle started in May, when her brother persuaded her to check into a clinic for treatment of a prescription drug dependency developed while on a diet program.

″He said, ’You’ve got to get off those pills and you need a good, long rest,‴ she said.

Mrs. Nelson said she put Sam in the care of Harmon and Miss Dawber, who were married earlier this year. She said she learned of the custody action on the day she left the hospital.

″I was feeling very proud and happy because I had just very successfully completed a program to help myself. Suddenly, I had two hours to find a lawyer who would help me keep my son,″ she told the magazine. ″At first, I thought it was a joke, and I wondered, ’Where’s the punchline?‴

At a hearing, Harmon was granted temporary custody of Sam.

″What happened was, in my opinion, the boy decided, ’Well, this is a lot of fun here,‴ said Osborne. ″Mark offered him a part in a movie, and he was having a good time when he was told he was going to have to go back home and go back to the drudgery of normal life.″

Osborne said Matthew and Gunnar, who live with Mrs. Nelson, will testify for their mother.

Harriet Nelson, the mother in the long-running ″Advetures of Ozzie and Harriet″ television show where the nation watched Rick and brother David grow up, is on the side of her former daughter-in-law, but she probably will not testify, said Osborne.

″I don’t know how much we want to drag her into the fight,″ said Osborne. ″We have about 30 witnesses, from schoolteachers of Sam to doctors, acquaintances, business associates of Kristin’s ... to show she lives a normal life raising her family.″

A telephone call seeking comment from Harmon’s attorney was not immediately returned.

Kristin Nelson divorced Rick in 1982. The former teen star whose hits included ″Hello, Mary Lou″ and ″Traveling Man″ was killed with six others in a New Year’s Eve 1985 plane crash in Texas.

Harmon, 35, who gained fame on the television show ″St. Elsewhere,″ is the star of the movie ″Summer School.″ He and Kristin are the children of football hero and sportscaster Tom Harmon and former actress Elyse Knox.

Miss Dawber is the star of ″My Sister Sam″ on CBS, and before that co- starred with Robin Williams on the ″Mork and Mindy″ television show.