Mudd's Widow Testifies About Phone Call to Mistress : Courts: She says she asked why Eleanor (Lorraine) Oliver would 'hurt him' with a palimony lawsuit.


Vanessa Mudd, widow of multimillionaire Henry T. Mudd, testified Thursday in Superior Court that she telephoned one of her husband's many mistresses and left a message asking how the mistress could take legal action against her husband when he had been so kind to her.

The widow said she protested that her husband cried when he heard of the action.

"I also said I hoped she never got a decent night's sleep for as long as she lived," Vanessa Mudd said, her voice breaking with emotion. "And I'm not sorry about any of it."

The outburst from Vanessa Mudd--herself previously one of a group of at least seven mistresses of Henry T. Mudd--came during the trial of a $5-million palimony suit brought against his estate by one of the other women, Eleanor (Lorraine) Oliver.

Oliver alleges she had an unwritten contract with Mudd providing that, in return for providing him companionship, he would set up trusts giving her lifetime support and free use of a $600,000 hillside home in Studio City after his death.

She says Mudd, co-founder of Harvey Mudd College, broke the contract after he married Vanessa Mudd in 1990, ended his 13-year relationship with Oliver and revoked her trusts. After Mudd died several months later of complications of leukemia at age 77, the executors of his estate claimed Oliver owed back rent and evicted her from the house.

The executors--Vanessa Mudd, accountant Seymour Bond and First Interstate Bank--deny any contract existed, saying that Oliver was only one of several of Mudd's mistresses and contending that the relationship was based primarily on Mudd paying Oliver for sex.

Furthermore, they stress, Oliver broke off the relationship with Mudd by hiring palimony attorney Marvin Mitchelson in April, 1990, to represent her in seeking a settlement. Mitchelson had represented two other former mistresses who sued Mudd in 1985 and 1986. The suits were settled out of court, Mitchelson has said.

Vanessa Mudd, wearing a gray-and-white plaid jacket sprinkled with rhinestones, testified Thursday that Mudd was deeply hurt after he received a letter from Mitchelson on behalf of Oliver.

"He cried," Vanessa Mudd said. ". . . He said he was hurt. He said he was disappointed."

Vanessa Mudd said she later called Oliver. When she reached Oliver's answering machine, she said, she left the message asking how Oliver could possibly "hurt him when he was so kind."

Vanessa Mudd said her husband had not asked her to call Oliver, that she did so on her own "because I loved him."

"You disliked her intensely, didn't you?" Mitchelson asked Vanessa Mudd at one point. An objection to the question precluded its answer.

When the executors' attorneys rested their case, Mitchelson called Oliver to the stand to rebut statements from several witnesses who testified for the executors.

Oliver denied an earlier witness's contention that Oliver told her she worked off a $10,000 loan by having sex with Mudd.

Oliver also said previous witnesses were wrong in testifying that Oliver said she was in the relationship with Mudd for money, that she was suing Mudd to get her life back in control and that she ended the relationship with Mudd because she didn't feel good about their physical relationship.

But Jamie Broder, an executor's attorney, questioned Oliver's testimony.

"You would have us all believe that Eileen Cavanaugh, Vanessa Mudd, Vincent Oliver and Betty Olend all lied on the witness stand?" Broder asked. "Aren't you the one who stands to gain? Isn't it true you're writing a book on this case?"

The questions were left unanswered after Mitchelson's objections were sustained by Superior Court Judge Florence T. Pickard.

Pickard, in another decision, allowed the television news program Inside Edition to videotape inside the courtroom Thursday. She had denied the show permission to do so on Monday after a witness objected. In a written order, Pickard said, "this court considers this form of media to be of the expose type."

On Thursday, attorney Kenneth I. Sidle, representing the show, hand-delivered a letter arguing: "There is no preferred status for members of the media based upon the subjective judgments of courts."

Pickard declined Thursday to comment on the situation, the clerk in her court said. Sidle said: "By letting us back in the courtroom, I think the court recognized its previous error."

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