Just when you thought everything was going to settle down so that beloved “Diff’rent Strokes” actor Gary Coleman could be buried in peace, it seems that his burial has been put on hold. Coleman, who died last Friday from a brain hemorrhage, was to be buried this weekend. However, his wife, Shannon Price, who has power of attorney and the right to decide such matters as burial and funeral arrangements, is being challenged by Gary Coleman’s estranged parents, Sue and Willie. According to the Associated Press, the Illinois couple is claiming they have a right to bring Gary Coleman back to Illinois, where the actor grew up, for burial.
So, now the memorial service and burial have been postponed.
Since Gary Coleman’s accident on Wednesday, May 26, the circumstances surrounding his death and the details emerging about life with his wife have been nothing short of a script from a soap opera. Not only did the the lack of information coming from Shannon Price, who was alone with Coleman when he fell and suffered the head injury that would cause his death, prompt many to ask questions, but the quickness with which the actor’s wife made the decision to pull him off life support became the focus of scrutiny.
Then it was discovered that Shannon Price and Gary Coleman weren’t married and had gotten a secret divorce. When questions began flying about the legality of Price’s decision to shut off Coleman’s life support, the facility where Coleman died, the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, announced that Price had been issued an emergency directive agreed upon by Coleman beforehand that gave her the legal authority to make life and death decisions in the event that the 42-year-old actor became unable to make such decisions for himself. So it did not matter that Shannon Price and Gary Coleman were not married.
The continuing silence about the circumstances surrounding Gary Coleman’s death was by this time being met with rumor and speculation about things untoward occurring in the Coleman household, based on their known history of marital volatility. Gary Coleman’s parents, who had been estranged from the “Diff’rent Strokes” actor for nearly two decades, went to People magazine and asked the wife of their son, whom they had never met, to provide the details of how Coleman had died. The release of the audiotape of the 911 call alleviated most worries that Shannon Price might have done something to cause Gary Coleman’s accident and subsequent death.
Then the burial was scheduled. And postponed.
Gary Coleman’s parents, Sue and Willie Coleman, have retained the services a Utah attorney to represent them in the matter. They contend that since Gary Coleman was no longer married to Shannon Price, they, as his next of kin, have custodial right to his body. They want the body flown back to Coleman’s childhood home in Illinois for burial.
The Colemans became estranged from their son after a protracted court battle over the money Gary Coleman made while acting on the NBC sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” and various movie projects. Coleman sued his parents and ex-manager for allegedly bilking him of his fortune. In 1993, the court awarded him $1.3 million.
The Colemans said they had not spoken with their son in over ten years when they found out he had been injured. Their efforts to reach the actor before he died failed.
It isn’t clear whether or not Gary Coleman and Shannon Price were remarried, but the two had reconciled in the past few months and were sharing the Santaquin house where the “Diff’rent Strokes” actor fell. Shielia Erickson, a representative for Shannon Price, told TMZ that Price was the executor of Gary Coleman’s will, so she had the right to make all decisions concerning the actor’s burial and estate matters.
Unless Price and the Colemans can come to some agreement, the matter will be decided by a judge.