Judge: Gary Coleman’s Body Can’t Be Cremated Until After Wednesday
First Published: June 14, 2010 12:24 PM EDT Credit: Getty Images
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- A Utah judge on Monday ordered that Gary Coleman’s remains be cremated no sooner than Wednesday afternoon, so Coleman’s ex-girlfriend has enough time to travel from Oregon to Utah to see his body.
Fourth District Judge James Taylor appointed an independent attorney to oversee Coleman’s property and the cremation of his remains until a dispute between the actor’s ex-wife and ex-girlfriend is settled.
The court named Provo attorney Robert Jeffs the special administrator of Coleman’s estate. Jeffs wasn’t notified of the ruling in advance and wasn’t at the hearing.
“All I know about the death, the estate and the dispute is what I’ve read in the media,” Jeffs told The Associated Press after learning of thedecision.
Though a specific cremation date has not been set, Jeffs said Coleman’s ashes and property will be securely stored until a final determination is made on an estate executor.
Coleman died May 28, but his cremation has been on hold because of legal wrangling over his assets, which include a Utah home valued in property tax records at $315,000 and a collection of toy trains. Coleman’s ex-wife, Shannon Price, and his former girlfriend and manager, Anna Gray, both contend they are the lawful administrators of his estate.
Gray is named in a 2005 will, and the judge delayed Coleman’s cremation so Gray could travel to Utah from Portland, Ore., and see his body before it is cremated.
“She’s attached to him. She cared about him. She just wants to see him again,” said Gray’s attorney, Randy Kester.
Kester said Coleman and Gray knew each other for eight years. He said she moved to Utah and lived with Coleman briefly before Coleman and Price became romantically involved in 2005 on the set of the comedy “Church Ball.”
Price declined to comment Monday. She is named in a 2007 handwritten note by Coleman that is intended to amend any earlier wills. The note names Price as the sole heir.
Also Monday, one of Coleman’s friends and former managers, Dion Mial, withdrew his petition to be named as the special administrator of Coleman’s estate. Mial was named in a 1999 will by Coleman, but Mial’s attorney said the will that names Gray takes precedence because it is more recent.
Coleman stated in both wills that he wanted to be cremated.
Once the will naming Mial was discovered, Coleman’s estranged parents, Sue and Willie Coleman, said they would not seek to make their son’s funeral arrangements.
Their attorney, Frederick Jackman, said the couple did not ask the judge to let them see their son before he is cremated.
“They want Gary to rest. That’s all they want. I think they feel like if they came out here it would create ‘activity,’” Jackman said. “Their son is gone. They just want him left alone.”
Price and Gray each say they should be responsible for administering the estate of the “Diff’rent Strokes” star. Price’s attorneys objected to the judge’s decision to give Gray 48 hours to view Coleman one last time.
Price’s attorneys contend she is the rightful heir to Coleman’s estate because even though the two divorced in 2008, she was still his common-law wife. Court documents say the couple continued to live together, shared bank accounts and presented themselves as husband and wife.
It wasn’t publicly known the two had divorced until after Coleman died after suffering a brain hemorrhage.
Price referred to Coleman as her husband when she called 911 on May 26, saying he had fallen and was bleeding severely from the back of his head.
Coleman was still conscious when he was taken to a hospital in Provo but slipped into unconsciousness the next day and was placed on life support. It was Price who ordered Coleman to be taken off of life support. In 2006 — before they were married — Coleman signed documents giving Price legal authority to make medical decisions for him if he couldn’t.
A court filing by Kester said Gray has been informed that Price has been removing personal property from Coleman’s home.
On June 10, the Fourth District Court ordered that no more of Coleman’s property be removed or sold. The court also prohibited any of the parties from selling or distributing photographs of Coleman before or after his death.
Price appeared in a picture with Coleman on his death bed on the cover of a tabloid June 8.
Coleman starred for eight seasons on the sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes,” starting in 1978. The10-year-old’s “Whachu talkin’ ‘bout?” became a catch phrase in the show about two African-American brothers adopted by a wealthy white man.
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