The dateline is Hollywood, Fla., but the story is pure tinsel town.
A 16-year-old orphan who discovered $1 million worth of jewels near some railroad tracks six months ago has been declared the owner under the state's finders-keepers law.
Florida police gave the real owner six months to come forward and in that time some 300 people have tried to claim the loot--gold rings, diamonds and jewel-encrusted bracelets--found by the boy, Eric DeWild. Police said none of the claims could be verified, and the jewels are expected to be turned over to the teen-ager next week.
DeWild, who lives with his aunt, was walking along the railroad tracks in Hollywood on March 16 when he picked up a yellow Naugahyde bag. Inside, he found a cache of estate jewelry from the 1920s and 1930s. Thinking they were fake, he passed the baubles around to school friends. When the true value of the jewelry was discovered, he turned the loot over to police.
"We didn't even think they were real, they were so big and gaudy," police spokesman Tony Alderson said yesterday. "There was one diamond alone worth $48,000."
Alderson said DeWild was "very surprised" when he learned he might be a millionaire but that "he and his aunt are not interested in any publicity," though television producers from "That's Incredible" and "Real People" have been trying to snag DeWild for a segment. "We're trying to avoid a media circus," said Alderson. "We want this to be as smooth as possible, with a minimum of exposure for the boy."
DeWild's aunt has told police she will set up an estate-planning account for the boy. Acting as his guardian, she will administer the money for him until he turns 18.
As for what he'd like to do with the money, DeWild isn't saying. Reporters were having a hard time tracking him down yesterday. Even his Miami lawyer was mum on the new millionaire.
"I don't think you're going to be able to get in touch with him," a Hollywood Police Department spokesman said yesterday. "He's gone into seclusion after being pestered and pestered and pestered."