NEW YORK -- Huguette Clark, the 104-year-old heiress to a Montana copper fortune who once lived in the largest apartment on Fifth Avenue, has died at a Manhattan hospital even as an investigation continues into how her millions were handled.
Clark spent the last two decades of her life in New York City hospitals. She died Tuesday, "with dignity and privacy," her lawyer, Wallace Bock, said in a statement.
The statement was released by Robert Anello, an attorney who represents Bock in an investigation into Clark's finances.
The Manhattan district attorney is looking into claims made by Clark's family that she was kept isolated from almost everyone except Bock and her accountant and that she may not have understood decisions being made related to her fortune.
Clark was born in 1906 to a then 67-year-old U.S. senator, William A. Clark of Montana, and a 28-year-old Michigan woman named Anna Eugenia La Chapelle. Clark had made a fortune in mining and was one of the richest men in America. He built railroads across the United States, founding Las Vegas in the process.
Huguette Clark's fortune is believed to be worth some $500 million. As of last year, she still owned a 42-room, multi-floor apartment at 907 Fifth Ave.; a Connecticut castle surrounded by 52 acres of land; and a Santa Barbara, Calif., mansion built on a 23-acre bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The Daily News writes that Huguette "traded in aristocracy for eccentricity" and removed herself from the outside world -- and her vast fortune -- after the death of her mother.
MSNBC ran a report about Huguette's elusive lifestyle and her abandoned mansions. Andre Baeyens, Clark's grand-halfnephew, told NBC's "Today" show that "Everything stopped for her when her mother died. She didn't want to go out. She didn't want to have beautiful things, no, no. She just wanted to be home and play with her dolls."
Beginning in the 1960s, Clark rarely left her Fifth Avenue home, having whatever she needed delivered. She moved into a hospital in the 1980s. Bill Dedman of MSNBC tracked Clark down last year and found her living in a very nondescript, almost "drab" hospital room. She was doing fine, but said she just wanted to be left alone.
Bock and accountant Irving Kamsler had been in charge of her financial affairs for years, and they're among the few people who have contact with her. Distant relatives say they have not seen her in years.
NOTABLE DEATHS OF 2011 (PHOTOS):