The parents of former child TV star Gary Coleman are seeking custody of his body and want it returned to the star’s boyhood home in Illinois, his former manager said Thursday. Coleman died Friday in Utah from a brain hemorrhage at age 42.
His former manager and family spokesman Victor Perillo said Coleman’s parents are the legal custodians of his body because he was divorced from his wife, Shannon Price, in 2008. It was Price who ordered that Coleman be taken off of life support.
Utah Valley Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Janet Frank said Price was named in an advanced health care directive that allowed her to make health care decisions for Coleman when he couldn’t make them for himself.
“The arrangement we’re working on now is to get Gary back to his next of kin, which is his parents. The funeral home has been notified, the sheriff’s office, we’ve notified them that there is to be no communication on where the body is to go unless its dealt with legally with Gary’s next of kin, and that’s the way it stands right now,” Perillo told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from British Columbia.
Perillo helped launch Coleman’s career from Chicago in about 1977 and worked with him for 15 years. Coleman is originally from Zion, Ill., a small town about 50 miles north of Chicago near the Wisconsin border. Perillo said Coleman’s parents have discussed having a small, private ceremony and that his body could be returned to Illinois as soon as Friday.
Frederick Jackman, a Utah estate attorney that Perillo said is representing the Colemans, did not immediately return a message Thursday.
It’s unclear whether Price and Coleman ever remarried after their divorce.
On the 911 call from May 26, the day Coleman apparently had a seizure or hit his head and fell, Price refers to Coleman as her husband.
She can be heard asking a Utah emergency dispatcher to send help for Coleman, who was bleeding from the back of his head and “bubbling at the mouth” after falling at their Santaquin home about 65 miles south of Salt Lake City
“I just don’t want him to die,” Price said in the call. “I’m freaking out like really bad.”
Coleman was conscious at the hospital the day of the 911 call, but slipped into unconsciousness the next day and was taken off life support Friday with family at his side.
Police records show Coleman and Price had a tumultuous relationship from the very beginning of their courtship, which started when they met on the set of the 2006 comedy, “Church Ball.”
In January 2007, Coleman called police because he was worried Price was going to bring her three brothers to confront him following an argument they had. Then in July of that year, he exploded at Price in a clinic parking lot in Provo.
“Coleman was yelling that he could not take it anymore,” the police report states.
The report says Price felt threatened and was worried things were going to “get out of control they way they did earlier.” The actor was charged with disorderly conduct and eventually placed on probation.
One month later, Coleman whisked Price to a Nevada mountaintop to wed.
By August 2008, the two had divorced, but they remained close and their legal problems continued. In February, Coleman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge related to a domestic violence incident in April 2009.
No details are in court documents, but defense attorney Randy Kester told The Associated Press that Coleman and Price had an argument which got out of hand.
“No one was injured and no ambulances were called,” Kester said at the time. “It was just a disagreement.”
Coleman starred for eight seasons on the sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes,” starting in 1978. The tiny 10-year-old’s “Whachu talkin’ ‘bout?” was a staple in the show about two African-American brothers adopted by a wealthy white man. Coleman played Arnold Jackson, the younger of the two brothers.