Alabama agency closes Harper Lee inquiry; agent denies abuse claims

One Alabama state agency closes Harper Lee investigation, but another inquiry might still be underway

One of the Alabama state agencies investigating claims of elder abuse against "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee has closed its inquiry into the allegations, the New York Times reports. The Alabama Securities Commission announced it will no longer be part of the investigation after determining that Lee "has opinions and seems to be aware of what is going on with her book and the book deal."

An inquiry by another agency, the Alabama Department of Human Services, might still be under way, however. According to the New York Times, that department "continued their work this week and on Wednesday spoke by phone with the Rev. Thomas Butts," an acquaintance of Lee. The Guardian reports that the agency "would not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation" to their reporters.

The latest developments come after reports on Thursday that the state of Alabama was investigating at least one anonymous complaint that Lee, 88, had been manipulated into agreeing to publish her second novel, "Go Set a Watchman," which would be her first book in 55 years. Lee resides in an assisted-living facility in Monroeville, Ala., and rumors have circulated that her physical and mental health might be poor.

The agent in charge of international rights for the novel, Andrew Nurnberg, responded forcefully to those allegations in a statement, calling them "shameful."

"Having spent quality time with her over the last couple of years, I can categorically state that she is in full possession of her mental faculties," Nurnberg wrote. "Nelle could not be better cared for in the residential home where she lives. To suggest otherwise, anonymously and without any supportive evidence, is as shameful as it is sad. ... We made a determination that Ms. Lee, based on our interview with her, was aware that her book was going to be published. She wanted it published. She made it quite clear she did." (The author's full name is Nelle Harper Lee.)

"Go Set a Watchman" is set for a July 14 release by Harper, an imprint of publisher HarperCollins.

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