NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A Nashville judge has appointed a lawyer to investigate what’s going on with actress Reese Witherspoon’s father who is accused of bigamy and possibly has dementia, according to documents released in a sealed court case.
Earlier this month, Witherspoon’s mother, Betty Witherspoon, said her husband of 42 years married another woman even though he remained wed to her.
A hearing in that case, which was scheduled for Thursday, has been indefinitely postponed. In the meantime, documents released from another Nashville court indicate that John Witherspoon was placed in a conservatorship at the request of the Academy Award-winning actress and her brother.
The actress appeared in a Nashville courtroom on May 11 with her father, a Nashville otolaryngologist, but a judge barred the media from covering the hearing.
The parents have been separated since 1996 but remain married and still attend family functions together, including their daughter’s March 2011 wedding.
Betty Witherspoon said in court documents that she discovered that her husband married the other woman after reading a newspaper wedding announcement. She signed an affidavit saying that when she confronted her 70-year-old husband, he didn’t know who the woman was or remember marrying her.
Betty Witherspoon has accused John Witherspoon’s new wife, Tricianne “Patricia” Taylor, of taking out loans as Mrs. John Witherspoon and changing his will.
“She vehemently denies those allegations,” said Joe Brandon Jr., an attorney who represents Taylor. “She’s devastated, and we don’t have any further comment.”
Betty Witherspoon, a 63-year-old nurse at Vanderbilt University hospital and a retired Tennessee State professor, says in the court documents that she still loves her husband and fears for his safety. She has accused him of taking out large loans for money.
“My husband’s spending practices have accelerated,” her affidavit says. “I now understand that he may have borrowed $400,000 at Bank of America and either forged my name or had his girlfriend posing as his wife sign.”
The documents say she no longer lives with her husband because of his “alcoholism, infidelity, overspending and hoarding.”
Betty Witherspoon has asked a family court judge to annul the wedding between her husband and Taylor and to order her to leave all residences belonging to the family, return all possession she has acquired and pay all court costs.
The Tennessean newspaper and WSMV-TV have filed an emergency petition with the probate court asking that the judge to unseal the documents and open all future court hearings to the media.
The limited documents released in the probate case mostly involved filings from the media.
A hearing has been scheduled on June 25 that will decide whether the judge will unseal the files and open any future court hearings.