Mama Cass didn’t choke on a Ham Sandwich – recent update

Ellen Naomi Cohen, who took the stage name Cass Elliot and was a member of the Mamas and the Papas, died in July 1974 aged 32 in London. The Mamas and the Papas had 11 top 40 singles and have sold around 100 million albums.

Cass was married to James Hendricks with whom she had a daughter, Owen, who was born in April 1967.

A widely reported untruth that Cass choked to death on a ham sandwich has persisted.

It has been attributed to the coroner who first examined the body who noticed a ham sandwich and a Coke on a table next to the bed where Cass’s body lay… and as the body, did not display symptoms of any other sort of trauma, Cass must have choked while eating and drinking lying down. He then told this to the waiting media.

He missed the fact that the sandwich was untouched, and a full autopsy showed that the actual cause of Elliot’s death was a heart attack.

It was also believed that she had died intestate but that too appears to have been incorrect.

Approximately 35 years after her death, it appears that Cass, made a Will, and its beneficiaries are suing the singer’s lawyers for malpractice, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud for not disclosing the Wills whereabouts.

Cass had a Will prepared in 1967, but the firm advised her heirs in 1974, when she died,

“that due search and inquiry have been made to ascertain if said deceased left any Will and testament, but none has been found, and according to the best knowledge, information and belief of your petitioner said deceased died intestate.”

Accordingly, Cass’s estate was distributed in accordance with California intestate law to her daughter.

In 2011 Cass’s sister, Leah came across information that led her to believe that a Will existed. She contacted the law firm who prepared the Will and it was located. Cass’s Will, provided a one-third share of her estate to her mother, Bess, who died in March 1994 leaving her estate to her son & daughter in equal shares;

as a corollary the one-third interest in Cass’s estate would have passed to her brother & sister.

Although Cass’s estate was insolvent when she died, as it includes royalties from her music, it has allegedly produced millions of dollars since that time.  Therefore their mother, and they through her will, lost the one-third share in Mama Cass’s estate due to the lawyer’s legal malpractice.

Early this year Jampol Artist Management Inc. (JAM), signed The Mamas & The Papas for representation. JAM will also represent the individual management of the group’s sole living member, Michelle Phillips, as well as the estates of John Phillips, who died in 2001, Denny Doherty who died in 2007 and  “Mama” Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty.

JAM will work on behalf of the group in exploring and accessing opportunities in feature and documentary films, commercial syncs, apparel and licensing, stage productions, museum exhibitions, digital products, books and more.

Michelle Phillips was enthusiastic that they were being represented by Jeff Jampol who runs JAM stating  “It’s incredibly important to me, the ‘last member standing’, as well as the Estates of John Phillips, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty, that our story be told authentically and credibly, and that our music be handled lovingly, respectfully and artistically,”

Cass’s daughter Owen was equally excited that JAM would preserve and insure that the integrity of the group—and the integrity of my mother—will be treated with the same respect and care that I have accorded them for so long.”

Cass’s daughter Owen was equally excited that JAM would preserve and insure that the integrity of the group—and the integrity of my mother—will be treated with the same respect and care that I have accorded them for so long.” 

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