2007_09_astors.jpg"I feel I’m losing my mind. I wish I knew what was the matter with me. It would be better to die than go on feeling this way."

- Anthony Marshall's recollection of what his mother Brooke Astor said in a 2000 letter

Is there a smoking letter in the battle over recently deceased philanthropist and New York City social fixture Broke Astor? As her son Anthony Marshall and her court-appointed guardians battle over whether a will from 1997 or a 2002 will with additions should be used, the NY Times reveals that a letter from 2000 raises questions about Astor's mental health. And the letter is written by Marshall.

The letter describes the then-98-year-old Astor as getting lost at her estates, being unable to make decisions, and having trouble completing sentences. Marshall's letter was written to a geriatric medicine expert, Dr. Howard M. Fillit, and the letter "appeared to respond to his diagnosis that Mrs. Astor may have been suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease." Marshall also wrote to Filit, "While I’m deeply saddened by the news you’ve given me, it is, at the same time, a relief for me ...to know what the problem is and not that she is just an elderly person being difficult.”

Last year, one of Marshall's sons accused his father of elder abuse, saying that Astor was being mistreated, being made to wear old nightgowns and sit on a dog-urine-soaked couch. While the court found no evidence of elder abuse, it did raise questions about Marshall's handling of his mother's estate. Though Marshall is the main beneficiary of both wills, Astor's court-appointed guardians, including Annette de la Renta and JP Morgan Chase, claim that he fraudulently benefited himself as the estate's executor.

The Marshall's letter to Filit was leaked to the Times by one of the parties in the case. Marshall, who secretly buried Astor after a very public funeral, recently claimed that there was a "malicious jihad" against him.