Upon man's death, 5 wives surface Legal fight ensues over large estate

August 29, 1991|By San Francisco Chronicle

OAKLAND, CALIF — OAKLAND, Calif. -- When 52-year-old Richard Jenkins died of a heart attack in the driveway of his auto repair shop in May, his troubles were just beginning.

His death unraveled a secret life that has led to a legal fight over hisestate among three of at least five women to whom lawyers say he was still married.

Mr. Jenkins' secret became known when relatives of three of the wives tried to claim his body for burial. "That's when all hell broke loose," lawyer Edward Martens said.

Mr. Martens represents Laura Jenkins, 36, who authorities believe was the last woman Mr. Jenkins married -- in November 1990. Mr. Jenkins had married at least six other women between 1955 and 1983but was divorced from only two.

Lawyers say that there are also at least two other women with whom he fathered children out of wedlock. The children have joined in the court fight over an estate one lawyer estimated at more than $1 million.

Portor Goltz, deputy county counsel, declined to speculate what criminal action might have been taken against Mr. Jenkins if he had lived.

"If he wasn't dead," Mr. Goltz said, "one of his wives would probably kill him."

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