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Associated Press Family fights for Montana land awarded to late broadcaster's mistress

BOZEMAN (AP) - The two daughters of late CBS journalist Charles Kuralt will appeal a judge's March ruling that their father's fishing retreat on the Big Hole River should be inherited by the woman who was his companion of three decades.

Susan Bowers and Lisa Bowers White, Kuralt's daughters by his first marriage, filed a notice Thursday in Madison County District Court that they will appeal the decision to the Montana Supreme Court.

Bowers and White are hoping to overturn District Judge John Christensen's decision that 90 acres of Kuralt's land and a renovated one-room schoolhouse should go to Pat Shannon of Twin Bridges, his mistress for 29 years.

Neither Shannon nor her lawyer, Jim Goetz of Bozeman, could be reached for comment. Todd Hillier, lawyer for the estate, also of Bozeman, had no comment.

Kuralt was married to Suzanne "Petie" Baird Kuralt for 35 years and they lived in New York City. Kuralt traveled a great deal over the years filming his television shows, "On the Road With Charles Kuralt" and "Sunday Morning" for CBS.

He died on July 4, 1997, of complications from lupus. He was 62. Not until his death did his widow learn that her husband had a family relationship with Shannon and her three children that had lasted nearly three decades.

His widow died last year.

The question Christensen answered was whether the handwritten letter Kuralt wrote 16 days before his death was a legal will under Montana law or whether the will he wrote in 1994 leaving all his property to his estate - his widow and his daughters - should be followed.

The letter said, "Something is terribly wrong with me and they can't figure out what … I'll have the lawyer visit the hospital to be sure you inherit the rest of the place in MT. if it comes to that."

In his decision, Christensen wrote, "The use of the term 'inherit' specifically being emphasized by Kuralt leads this court to conclude that Kuralt intended his letter to Shannon … to provide a posthumous transfer of his Montana property to her."

Shannon lives on 20 acres of land and in a fishing cabin that Kuralt gave her. The property is sandwiched between the two contested parcels of land.

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