We haven’t heard the last of Brianna Nelson, who was knocked off the list of Prince heirs.
Nelson, who contacted me to set a few matters straight, is the daughter of the late Duane Nelson, a former Paisley Park security chief long considered Prince’s brother, although they were not related by blood. “I didn’t find out that John Nelson wasn’t my grandfather until my dad passed away,” said Brianna, a memory care worker who lives in Milwaukee. We had a conference call Monday that included Chicago-based attorney Joanna Sunderland, who is helping her decide what’s next.
“You can be a family and not related by blood, C.J.,” Sunderland said.
“We had clear and convincing evidence to present to the judge [and] he just said, No, we don’t want to hear your evidence,” said Sunderland. “Duane’s birth certificate had John Nelson as his father. We have Duane’s death certificate, John Nelson is his father. He is buried in the cemetery feet away from John Nelson. Bremer Trust, the special administrator for Prince’s estate, out of the clear blue, hands us a file with wills that John Nelson had drafted that not only mention Duane as his son but give his birth date and address. And when it says list your children, he, [John] lists Duane as one of his children.
“It’s almost like Mr. Nelson was reaching out of the grave to help us.”
According to Sunderland, Duane was born after John Nelson and his first wife, Vivian Nelson, divorced and he was already married to Prince’s and Tyka’s mother, Mattie Nelson.
“[John] accepted Duane as his child publicly,” said Sunderland. “John sent him to college, came to watch him play basketball, was at his graduation. Duane was a high school All-American and named to the Musselman All-Star basketball team; went to UW-Milwaukee on a basketball scholarship.
“It’s very convenient when there is money involved, all of a sudden everybody wants to throw Duane away. And Brianna, I don’t want to speak disrespectfully of your uncle, but we know that Prince himself when he was done with a person for whatever reason, he was done. There is no dispute that they [Prince and Duane] had a falling out. They had a falling out, and Duane was in the throes of mental illness and he wasn’t being properly treated or cared for; Duane didn’t have the mental wherewithal to fight his entire family, all the time. Duane was barely holding on at the end.”
Q: Are you disappointed the judge excluded you as a Prince heir?
A: Absolutely. And very shocked. I don’t see why he wouldn’t give me an evidentiary hearing knowing that I have a will that states my father being my grandfather’s son. And that was given to me by Bremer. It was in a personal file that my uncle [Prince] had at Paisley Park, a draft of a will; my grandfather had a will drafted. My dad was born a Nelson, lived as a Nelson and he died a Nelson. All of his life he was referred to as Prince’s brother in different articles and documentation. Basically, [Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide] is saying my dad didn’t have a father, and that’s not true.
Q: What can you tell me about Duane’s mental health?
A: That’s personal. I love the fact that I can eventually be able to tell my dad’s story. I’m just having to take in what my dad was going through because I never chose to go through his journals until now.
Q: Does this mean we can expect a book from you?
A: Absolutely. This story is going to be told. Outlines are coming.
Q: Did you ever get to meet your uncle, Prince?
A: More than meet. [Attorney added: Brianna spent her summers at Paisley Park with her daddy. Paisley Park was her summer campground. Brianna has been very intimate with the family. They have been very welcoming to her, including her in the tribute concert; Brianna was backstage with Tyka and Omarr, Prince’s half-brother through Mattie.]
Q: Is there anything you didn’t get to say to your dad?
A: It’s not about what I would have told him then. It’s about what I would tell him now. Everything he endured. Every pain he felt. Every love that he felt from his family. I am seeking justice for my father and I fight like a Nelson, standing up and on my back. When I feel weak I see my daddy’s eyes looking back at me in the mirror and I know he’s got my back.
Q: How many kids did Duane have?
A: Me and Duane Nelson Jr.
Q: How many kids do you have?
A: I don’t have any children. It’s me and my niece Victoria, she is a minor in the case with me. My brother [Duane Nelson Jr.] passed away and he had a daughter, named Victoria. They [media] always think that she’s my daughter; that’s my niece.
Q: What’s the funniest thing your uncle Prince ever did around you?
A: One time he tried to keep my toy when I was about 8 or 9. My dad bought me one of those dogs that used to walk and flip. My uncle was famous and he was being silly with me. When you look now you see him being so serious, so I thought that was really cute.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.