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Gary Coleman's Parents Want Custody of Body

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The estranged 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, Sue and Willie Coleman, are the legal custodians of his body because Coleman was divorced from his wife, Shannon Price, in 2008. It was Price who ordered that Gary 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 Gary Coleman when he couldn't make them for himself.

His parents have said they learned about his hospitalization and death from media reports and that they had wanted to reconcile with their son before his death.

In 1989, when Gary Coleman was 21, his mother filed a court request trying to gain control of her son's $6 million fortune, saying he was incapable of handling his affairs. The move "obviously stems from her frustration at not being able to control my life," he said.

Perillo helped launch Gary Coleman's career from Chicago around 1977 and worked with him for 15 years. Gary Coleman is originally from Zion, Illinois, a small town about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Chicago near the Wisconsin border. Perillo said his parents have discussed having a small, private ceremony and that his body could be returned to Illinois as soon as Friday.

"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.

Frederick Jackman, a Utah estate attorney, confirmed Thursday that he had been hired by Gary Coleman's parents to represent them in probate court. They don't want to fight over his estate but want to bring their son home, he said in a statement.

"I don't understand why so many people who knew Gary are being so secretive," Jackman's statement says. "The status of the divorce, whether or not anyone has a will, these are all issues that should be brought to the family's attention immediately. Formal probate is the way we make sure it all gets handled properly."

Police records show Gary Coleman and Price had a tumultuous relationship from the beginning of their relationship in 2006 when they met on the set of the comedy "Church Ball." Despite domestic trouble, they married in August 2007 and shared a house in Santaquin, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City, even after their August 2008 divorce.

It's unclear whether Price and Gary Coleman ever remarried.

On the emergency phone call from May 26, the day the actor apparently had a seizure or hit his head and fell, Price refers to Gary Coleman as her husband.

He was conscious at the hospital the day of the emergency call but slipped into unconsciousness the next day and was taken off life support Friday with family at his side.

In an interview on celebrity website TMZ, Price said she chose to take him off life support because doctors had told her that even if they had done surgery he would have died or never been the same.

"I don't want people to be so hard on me thinking that I had to pull the plug too early. He wouldn't have made it anyway. His heart would have just given out," she said. "But you know, be in my situation. I mean look what happened with Terri Schiavo. I always think of her case -- always when it comes to this.

"I mean Gary was gone. His eyes were dilated. He wasn't ... he was just gone."

Gary 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. He played Arnold Jackson, the younger of the two brothers.

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