Judge makes ruling on Gary Coleman's remains

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PROVO -- Monday afternoon brought a resolution to the dispute over the remains of actor Gary Coleman, who died May 28 in Provo.

There won't be a public funeral for Coleman. Fourth District Judge James Taylor ruled that his remains can be cremated, but not until Wednesday evening.

The decision will allow a former girlfriend, Anna Gray, who is seeking a claim to his estate, to have a final viewing -- something that Shannon Price, Coleman's ex-wife, argued against.

Gray's attorney, Randy Kester, said Gray wanted to see Coleman one more time for sentimental reasons. He said Coleman and Gray knew each other for eight years and that she moved to Utah and lived with him briefly before he and Price became romantically involved in 2005 on the set of the comedy "Church Ball."

"The proceedings in this case never cease to amaze me. It didn't make any sense to me," Kester said. "Certainly, I know my client would have afforded them that opportunity without objection, so I was a little surprised [that Price did not]."

Price was in the courtroom and argued against allowing Gray to have a private viewing.

According to Kester, Gray has what she says is Coleman's last will from 2005. Several purported wills have emerged since Coleman died last month of a brain hemorrhage. Coleman's parents and a former manager have since withdrawn their claims to his estate.

Meanwhile, Price claims to have a handwritten will from 2007. It now appears a judge will have to ultimately decide which will is valid -- a process that will likely take months.

"[Gray] wants to carry out the terms of the will. That's her only interest in this: Whatever Gary wanted, and whatever he stated in the 2005 will -- she believes that was his last, most objective wish -- and that's what she would like to have carried out," Kester said.

The judge appointed Provo attorney Robert Jeffs to begin sorting out the estate. This special administrator has been told to lock the house and protect its contents, though it's unclear if Coleman's estate even has any value.

Price's attorney didn't comment Monday. But when asked if this will turn into an ugly battle, he replied, "Time will tell."

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 his attorney said the will that names Gray takes precedence because it's more recent.

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.

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. The 10-year-old's "Whachu talkin' 'bout?" became a catch phrase in the show about two African-American brothers adopted by a wealthy white man.


Story compiled with contributions from Sam Penrod and Associated Press writer Brock Vergakis

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