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Judge to decide who gets Gary Coleman's ashes, estate
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • Anna Gray said her fight for Gary Coleman's estate isn't about money.

"There is no money in his estate," said Gray, who was the CEO of the corporation formed by the late "Diff'rent Strokes" star. The Santaquin home Coleman purchased has since been foreclosed on by lenders.

Instead, Gray has represented herself in a legal fight against Shannon Price, Coleman's ex-wife, for something she regards as more valuable.

"What I want are his ashes, and stopping his continued mistreatment," Gray said.

She also wants to ensure his name is not exploited, and is used only for projects he would have approved.

Fourth District Judge James Taylor, after two days of testimony, will decide whether to recognize the 2005 will that names Gray as Coleman's executor and beneficiary, or give Price — who argued in court that she and Coleman had a common-law marriage after their 2008 divorce — control over what is left of the actor's estate.

Taylor said he will issue a ruling at a later date, but did not specify when.

During closing arguments by Gray and Mitchell Maughan, Price's attorney, Taylor sought evidence of a common-law marriage between Price and Coleman. The couple married in Nevada in 2007, and secretly divorced in 2008, but continued to live in the same southern Utah County home.

Price and other witnesses — including a bank manager, Coleman's agent and Price's father — testified that the couple referred to each other as husband and wife, had joint bank accounts, filed income taxes as a married couple, and had sexual relations.

Dale Price testified Tuesday that he was a frequent guest at Coleman's home, and on a few occasions he saw Coleman and Price in bed together before he turned in for the night, and they were still there in the morning.

While Taylor acknowledged Maughan's evidence that Coleman and Price held themselves out as a married couple, he said that evidence didn't support another legal element of a common-law marriage: having a reputation as a married couple.

"Maybe they defined themselves as husband and wife when it suited them," Taylor said.

Taylor said Price should have presented witnesses who knew the couple only by reputation and could attest they were known as a married couple .

On Tuesday, Gray presented two witnesses, Haley Mower and Brandi Buys, who testified that Price and Coleman never referred to each other as husband or wife, and that the couple had separate bedrooms.

Mower said Price would berate Coleman, calling him "short," "midget" and "the F-word." Mower said the worst insult Price hurled at Coleman was his "Diff'rent Strokes" catchphrase.

"She would say, 'What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?', which was almost blasphemy," Mower said.

She said Coleman would look hurt after those episodes, but she did not recall him insulting Price publicly.

Buys said she went to Coleman's house one day, and all the plates were broken. She said Price told her that Coleman, upset because the dishes were not washed, broke them.

"[Price] said, 'I'm his roommate, not his wife. Why should I clean them up?'" Buys recalled.

Taylor, while questioning Gray during closing arguments, said that episode did not necessarily mean Coleman and Price were not a common-law couple. He said Price could have made the comment because she was upset.

Mower and Buys both claimed that Price offered them "benefits" to testify on her behalf at trial. Mower said Price's attorney didn't want her testimony, while Buys said she wouldn't risk committing perjury.

Gray noted that Price had incentive to claim she and Coleman were married, while Buys had an incentive to support that argument but refused.

After the hearing, Maughan said he thought the case went "fairly well."

Price refused to comment to reporters.

dmeyers@sltrib.com

Twitter: @donaldwmeyers

facebook.com/donaldwmeyers

gplus.to/DWMeyers

Shannon Price tries to prove she was star's common-law wife.
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