LOS ANGELES -- A psychiatrist testified that late singer Rick Nelson's youngest son told him it was 'scary' to be around his mother because of her alleged drug use and that he was drawn to his uncle, actor Mark Harmon, who is seeking custody of the boy.
Dr. Gary Chase, testifying on the first day of a hearing Tuesday on Harmon's request to take custody, said Sam Nelson drew a picture of his mother that portrayed her as a 'dragon who wouldn't let him see his other siblings or family members.'
Harmon, a former UCLA football star who played Dr. Robert Caldwell in the hit NBC television series 'St. Elsewhere,' contends his sister, Kristin Harmon Nelson, 42, is unfit to care for her son because of a drug dependency.
Sam Nelson, who will be 13 Aug. 29, has been living with Harmon and his wife, actress Pam Dawber, who stars in the CBS series 'My Sister Sam,' since his mother went into Century City Hospital for a month of drug rehabilitation.
Chase said the boy told him in June, 'It's scary to be around someone on drugs.'
'He lost his dad last year (in a New Year's Eve 1985 plane crash in Texas),' said Kristin Harmon Nelson, a casting director. 'I think its normal for a kid 12 or 13 to have this reaction.'
She called the psychiatrist's testimony 'ludicrous.' Chase testified under cross-examination that he was being paid $1,800 a day to appear in court.
Harmon refused to comment on the hearings to reporters. His lawyer, Lawrence Mark Stone, said it was a 'private matter' and that Harmon wants only 'what is best for Sam.'
Sam Nelson, grandson of former TV stars Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, arrived in court with his uncle and listened to testimony from the jury section of the courtroom, sitting by himself several seats away from other spectators.
Harmon, 35, sought to bar reporters from the courtroom and Superior Court Judge Ronald Swearinger agreed not to allow television cameras.
Stone said in an opening statement the case is one of 'sensitive psychological issues' and not of physical abuse.
Chase, an expert witness in family law cases, testified the boy told him in three interviews that he was 'made angry by arguments from his mother induced by mood swings from her taking drugs.'
'At times she would be happy or asleep or real mad or on his case about something,' Chase testified. 'A couple of times he was called 'jellyfish' and 'little s--' by his mother.'
At the same time, the psychiatrist said, the boy had a 'strong gravitation toward his uncle' who understood things and explained them to him.
Harmon, son of sportscaster and Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon, obtained temporary custody of Sam Nelson June 22. The custody was to last while his mother went through rehabilitation.
His mother, who was divorced from Nelson before the crash, has three other children, Tracy, who recently married Billy Moses of the 'Falcon Crest' television show, and twins Mathew and Gunnar, 19.
Kristin Harmon Nelson, who says her drug dependency developed from medication she received during a weight reduction program, claims she is completely recovered from her addiction.