DALLAS – Celebrated auto designer and race car driver Carroll Shelby will finally be buried, more than two months after his death, thanks to a settlement between his three children and wife, both sides told The Associated Press on Monday.
Shelby's body has been held in a Dallas morgue since his May 10 death. His children said their father signed a directive this year to have his remains cremated and split between them and a plot in his native East Texas. But his last wife, Cleo Shelby, called that directive a forgery and said another document signed two years ago gave her power over his affairs.
Both sides said Monday they were close to reaching a formal settlement, heading off a civil trial scheduled for Thursday. They said the agreement will allow Shelby's body to be cremated, but with the ashes split five ways instead of four, with an extra share for Cleo Shelby.
"We're not happy with it but we want to get my dad in the ground," said Shelby's oldest son, Michael, who said his siblings were still discussing final details.
Cleo Shelby said she was thankful the fight was over. In a statement, she said "both sides have agreed to immediately halt the litigation involving the burial of my husband, and he will soon be laid to rest." Her attorney, J. Richard Tubb, said Cleo would have the chance to briefly see her husband's body before cremation.
Shelby was the force behind the legendary Shelby Cobra sports car, as well as versions of Ford's Mustang and Chrysler's Viper. He was also one of the nation's longest-living heart transplant recipients, having received a heart in June 1990.
In the months before his death, Shelby spent hours test-driving his last Mustang Shelby GT500, which sets a new record for horsepower and hits a top speed of more than 200 miles per hour.
But he also wore several other hats during a long, colorful life: chicken farmer, race car driver, philanthropist, safari tour operator and the maker of a well-known line of chili. He was married several times and kept homes in Los Angeles and his native East Texas.
Shortly after his death, Cleo Shelby and her husband's three children — sons Michael and Patrick, and daughter Sharon — filed paperwork in a Dallas County lawsuit over the arrangements for his remains. Cleo Shelby claimed that her husband gave her power of attorney in August 2010 after he suffered a stroke, and she accused Michael Shelby of having "arranged to exclude" her from her husband's bedside in his final months.
Michael Shelby maintained during an interview Monday that his father, in front of seven witnesses, signed a document this year directing that his remains be divided between his living children and a plot of land in Texas. He described the settlement as a necessary compromise, and Tubb said both sides agreed that a deal was better than a court fight.
"Although I'm not pleased with that, I don't think anybody's ever pleased in a settlement," Michael Shelby said.