LOS ANGELES - TJ Jackson was one of Michael Jackson's favorite nephews. An heir to the family's musical talent and striking good looks, he is the son of Tito, one of the original Jackson Five. Largely unknown to the American public until now, he has been anointed as co-guardian of Michael's most prized treasures - his three children.
Suddenly, TJ is the chosen Jackson, the one designated to work beside Michael's mother to look after the welfare of his three cousins Prince, 15, Paris, 14 and Blanket,10, who will inherit the King of Pop's fortune.
He's stepping into a sensitive situation just days after a family feud went viral. But he appears to have only one interest at heart - the children.
"He has been very dedicated to these kids since Michael Jackson's death and he was involved with them before that," TJ's lawyer, Charles A. Schultz, said at a Thursday court hearing.
Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff, who appointed TJ to work with Katherine Jackson, said there is a strong bond between the 34-year-old T.J. and the children.
"They have a very significant relationship with TJ Jackson and they love him very much," said the judge. "There are things about his past that the kids can relate to."
Schultz agreed, saying outside court: "He had a loss early in his life of a close personal relative and they can identify with that."
In 1994, six years after his parents divorced, TJ's mother, Dolores, died in a drowning at her home swimming pool. Her boyfriend was later convicted of causing her drowning and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
When Michael Jackson died in 2009, Dr. Conrad Murray was accused of causing his death and was convicted of manslaughter. He is currently serving a four-year prison term.
Now, three years after his death, Michael's children are at the center of a familial battle and TJ's role has become even more important. Recently, Katherine Jackson was reported missing and Beckloff replaced her with TJ as the children's guardian. Now she's back, telling a story of having been held virtually incommunicado at a resort in Tucson, Ariz., unaware that she was the subject of a missing person's report.
In the court hearing Thursday, with neither of the parties present, the judge ruled that TJ and Katherine will share guardianship on a temporary basis. The arrangement could be made permanent later.
Beckloff had appointed an investigator to look into the domestic situation at the suburban Calabasas mansion where the young Jacksons have been living with their 82-year-old grandmother.
The result was a glowing report: "It appears from the report that Katherine Jackson has done a wonderful job and cares about the children very much," the judge said. "I think the kids are in terrific hands."