(NEW YORK) — A homeless man found dead under a Wyoming overpass last week stood to inherit $19 million from his deceased adopted great aunt, a copper heiress whose $300 million fortune is being disputed by her descendants in New York courts.
The body of Timothy Henry Gray, 60, was found Dec. 27 underneath the overpass of Union Pacific Railroad in Evanston, Wyo., a small mining town in the southwest corner of the state, by children who were sledding nearby. Gray died of hypothermia, according to a coroner’s report, and police said there is no sign of foul play.
“He appeared to have died from exposure,” Lt. Bill Jeffers with the Evanston police told ABC News. “He was just wearing a lighter jacket and jeans.”
Jeffers said that Evanston police had spoken to Gray last winter as part of a welfare check, and at that point he had an apartment in the area. Gray said that he appeared to not have a domicile at the time of his death.
Though Gray, who according to his brother had worked across the region as a cowboy, died homeless, what exactly happened to him is swathed in mystery. The Uinta County coroner told ABC News that a wallet found on him contained un-deposited checks from “a few years back.”
“This is not the average situation of a person who’s down on their luck,” Greg Crandall with the Uinta County Coroner said.
Gray was the adopted great-grandson of former U.S. Sen. William Andrews Clark and the half-great-nephew of the reclusive New York heiress Huguette Clark, who died in 2011 at 104. Clark caused a stir with her will by denying any relatives her fortune, instead opting to bequeath her $300 million to a nurse, her doctors and charity.
Clark’s last will was believed to have been signed in April 2005. Her private nurse was allocated at least $30 million. However, a will apparently signed just weeks before mandated Clark’s estate be left to her 20 great-nieces and great-nephews, who are now fighting a legal battle for the fortune of an aunt they likely never met.
Clark’s longtime attorney, Wallace Bock, wrote in an affidavit in 2010 before the heiress’ death that his client “has always been a strong-willed individual with firm convictions about how her life should be led and who should be privy to her affairs.”
Bock said the two nieces and a nephew named in the petition are “very distant relatives of Ms. Clark, who have only recently appeared on the scene.”
Paul Newell, a historian who is working on a book on Clark and her family, told ABCNews.com that attorneys seeking Clark’s fortune for her relatives had been trying to contact Gray before his death last week.
“She had no descendents, so the line goes through her father and down through his descendants,” he said. “Some have historic contacts with her. She was a recluse for the last 50-60 years, and [had] very little contact with any of that part of family. She chose to isolate herself.”
Timothy Gray was adopted into the family by Dr. Gerald Gray and Patricia Gray when he was 5 years old. His brother Gerry, who is 17 years older and now lives in Albany, Calif., said that no one in the family had any contact with Gray for more than two decades.
“He was doing ranch work when I last heard from him, but that was 25 years ago,” he told ABC News. “He had severe post-traumatic stress symptoms, due to childhood traumas.
“It looks like he also may have lost the ability to manage the most basic finances — he had a large check un-deposited. His condition must have deteriorated enormously. It’s universally and enormously sad. Everyone dies but it’s not the kind of death anyone in the family would want to suffer.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio