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Michael Jackson Greets Children Visiting His Neverland Ranch

From Associated Press

An ebullient Michael Jackson greeted some 200 children who were brought to his Neverland Ranch on Friday to play in its amusement park.

“I hope you have a wonderful day. Merry Christmas. I love you,” the pop singer called out to the children from the driveway of his estate.

Jackson, who faces trial next year on child molestation charges, appeared happy in the few minutes he spoke to the arriving throng.

One of the youngsters shouted, “We love you!”

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“I love you more,” Jackson replied before putting an umbrella over his head and walking back toward his house.

Jackson spokeswoman Raymone K. Bain said the entertainer chose to make an unusual personal appearance as a surprise for the last group of children touring Neverland before the Christmas holidays.

Bain said there was no relationship between the event and Jackson’s upcoming trial.

Santa Barbara County authorities have charged Jackson, 46, with molesting a 12-year-old boy, conspiring to cover up the crime and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to his alleged victim.

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Investigators have carried out several raids at Neverland, and in a recent court filing that seeks to introduce evidence of other purported crimes that went uncharged, prosecutors described the estate as “a veritable paradise” for children.

Friday’s visitors, from six organizations and ranging in age from about 3 to teenage years, were bused to Neverland and then rode a train up from the parking lot.

They included children with special needs from Santa Barbara and some from the First AME Church in Los Angeles.

Bain said charitable and civic groups bring children to Neverland at least three times a month to play on the amusement park rides, see its zoo and watch movies. On Friday, Jackson was showing “The Polar Express” in his movie theater.

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In his brief appearance, Jackson smiled, waved, and, at one point, looked as if he would come back and play with the children, but instead got into a vehicle that took him off the property.

Bain said many organizations write Jackson to ask permission to bring children to Neverland and an events staff decides who will be invited.

“Generally, Mr. Jackson is not here all the time,” she said. “There are events here daily. He wanted to surprise the kids.”

Bain said Jackson’s spirits were up.

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“Considering everything going on, he seemed to be well,” she said.


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