TODAY | June 25, 2010
MATT LAUER, co-host: But we begin this half-hour with the anniversary of Michael Jackson 's death. We're going to talk to Mark Lester , Jackson 's friend and the godfather to his three children, in just a couple of minutes. But first, NBC 's Jeff Rossen is at Neverland Ranch . Jeff , good morning to you.
JEFF ROSSEN reporting: Hey, Matt , good morning to you. Hard to believe it's been a year since he died. I think we all remember where we were when we got that tragic news. And, you know, as I drove into Neverland this morning, it's, of course, the wee hours of the morning here on the West Coast , there are already fans down at the front gate of the ranch laying down flowers, paying their respects. We're going to show you around this truly majestic property, 3,000 acres of it, in just a moment. But first this morning, we have exclusive new information on Michael 's kids and the investigation into his death.
ROSSEN: Today the Michael Jackson empire is bigger than ever. The movie " This Is It " grossed $260 million. In just the past year, his estate brought in $780 million. Michael 's kids won't ever have to worry about money, heirs to the King of Pop . Paris , Prince and Blanket are settling into a more normal life. Rarely seen when their father was alive, these days they're spotted all over LA , attending karate class, walking the streets of Universal Studios and spending time with relatives at the Jackson family compound. Their 80-year-old grandmother, Katherine , has custody and has remained silent until now, speaking for the first time since her son's death in a new interview licensed by " Dateline NBC ."
Ms. KATHERINE JACKSON: Paris loves the piano and she also wants to be an actress. And she can pick out any song that she wants to and especially her daddy's songs. Prince has a lot of talent and also he's very talented with the camera and with electronics. He wants to be a cameraman and he wants to write movies. And Blanket , he just -- he loves to sing and he plays with his toys most of the time. He's very young yet, but he's -- can carry a tune very well and he has rhythm. And he can dance.
ROSSEN: Just like his dad, singing and dancing from the time he was a toddler until his final days. No one ever lived like Michael Jackson .
BRIAN WILLIAMS reporting: Shocking news from Los Angeles tonight.
And no one ever died like Michael Jackson .
ROSSEN: Mourners are streaming by his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame .
MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: And I just wanted to say that I love him so much.
The pop star 's death has been labeled a homicide.
Miss PARIS JACKSON: Dr. Conrad Murray is now charged with involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors say he administered a lethal dose of propofol to Jackson just before he died. Dr. Murray proclaimed his innocence in a YouTube video .
LAUER: I told the truth and I have faith the truth will prevail.
ROSSEN: Now for the first time , his medical assistant, who was involved in Jackson 's treatment, is opening up in an exclusive interview.
Dr. CONRAD MURRAY: He would never intentionally harm a person. This man is the kindest, most gentlest human being you could ever, ever imagine.
ROSSEN: If Dr. Murray wasn't responsible for Michael Jackson 's death, who was?
Ms. STACEY RUGGLES (Murray's Medical Assistant): The addict.
ROSSEN: Michael Jackson .
Ms. RUGGLES: Absolutely. Addicts are very good at getting medications and hiding medications.
ROSSEN: How could he know that as his doctor?
Ms. RUGGLES: I didn't know that. If you're not told -- if your patient does not tell you, divulge all their medical information to you, how are you going to know that?
ROSSEN: So you're saying maybe he wouldn't have used certain drugs on him if he'd known that he was on other drugs.
Ms. RUGGLES: I'm saying maybe he wouldn't have taken the job.
ROSSEN: Is he scared?
Ms. RUGGLES: I don't think so.
ROSSEN: He's not scared of losing his license? He's not scared of going to jail?
Ms. RUGGLES: He did nothing wrong.
ROSSEN: To this day, she says Dr. Murray still considers Michael Jackson a friend.
Ms. RUGGLES: I can tell you that he misses his friend, he misses his friend dearly. He worries about the children. He thinks of them often. He loves the children very, very much.
ROSSEN: And Michael 's kids actually have a huge stake right now in Neverland . We're right now at the main house on the property because this is currently owned by a private equity firm called Colony Capital and the Jackson estate and so the kids could get it later. This is a 400-pound door that leads you into the front house. This is where Michael lived, his bedroom was just off that way and there were statues everywhere. There was a butler here with cookies on a tray. And they still have this, they'll never sell it. This is a gift from Elizabeth Taylor to Michael Jackson . It's still here on the property. Apparently Michael , back in the day , would get up here on the bike, ride around and give kids ice cream right out of here. And if we walk right through this way, this is Michael 's dining room . This is where he entertained. There was a huge dining room table here. Right now, as you can see, it's empty. And down here was the living room where he spent a lot of his time. This is not Michael Jackson 's furniture. This is actually fairly new. Colony Capital brought this furniture in because they use Neverland now for charity events. People bid on auctions, they bid at auctions. They have dinner here and they raise money for charity. So they'll often entertain people from the outside who just want a chance to raise money for a good cause and have dinner at Michael 's Neverland Ranch . He lived here, really the only place he called home in his adult life, from 1985 to 2005 . Nearly 3,000 acres here, Matt. It cost millions of dollars to maintain. The question is, what happens to it now? What's the future for Neverland ? They won't tell us. It's still unclear. But Katherine Jackson recently said that she just hopes it's not sold. She wants to keep it in the
Ms. RUGGLES: Yeah. Jeff Rossen , it's a remarkable place. Jeff at Neverland...