Parents to Fight for Gary Coleman's Remains as Todd Bridges Announces "Secret Will"

Former costar says his friend's final wishes will become known in the coming days as estranged parents enter the scene

By Josh Grossberg Jun 04, 2010 1:45 AMTags
Gary ColemanMichael Loccisano/Getty Images

A secret will is what Willis is talking 'bout.

Adding to the bizarre circumstances surrounding his TV brother's death, Todd Bridges has come out with the surprise announcement that he is in possession of a document purporting to contain the final wishes of Gary Coleman.

"[A friend of mine and I] have paperwork, and we'll bring it out soon, that will show what his wishes were and what he wanted," Bridges said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. "There's a big fight going on with his parents and some other people involved, and after we bring this paperwork out, everybody's going to shut up."

"Everybody" presumably includes Coleman's ex-wife, Shannon Price, as well as his estranged parents—all of whom made waves with their comments today.

"Gary had certain wishes [to exclude his parents]. I'm not going to go against a dying man's wishes," Bridges continued. "There's a reason why he didn't speak to them for 23 years."

In 1989, Coleman successfully sued his parents and a former business adviser for misappropriating his multimillion-dollar trust fund from his Diff'rent Strokes days.

But the estragement hasn't prevented Sue and Willie Coleman from inserting themselves into what may be a fight over the late actor's body and putting a question mark on his funeral—currently scheduled for Saturday in Utah.

Days after calling for an investigation into his death, the Colemans have hired an attorney in Salt Lake City and are planning to seek custody of their son's remains for burial in his native Zion, Ill.

Coleman's ex-manager, Victor Perillo, speaking on the parents' behalf, said the fact the former child star was secretly divorced from wife Price means they are the legal custodians of Coleman's remains and not her—even though Price had the final say on whether to take Gary off life support, and gave the final order to do so.

"All they want is for their son to come home, which is all they wanted for years before their son got taken away from them by a group of people who think they own actors," Perillo told E! News Thursday.

"The Colemans are not attacking anybody, all they want is his body back," he said. "There has been a lot in the press about how they stole money, but they never stole a dime."

According to Perillo, it was Coleman's former accountant who was the real target of his animosity.

"It was the accountant/business manager, not his parents," Perillo said, "but all we hear is that [Sue and Willie] took money from the kid. Meanwhile, two months after Diff'rent Strokes is off the air, they went back to work. Sue is a nurse and Will works in a factory.  They have been working for 22 years. Where is all this money they supposedly stole?  They have lost him twice: First, when people took him away at 19, and now they lose him at death and these people are still fighting for him."

"We want his legacy to be about his magnificent talent and not this nonsense," Perillo added.

Also today, Prince defended her decision to allow doctors to take Coleman off life support. In an interview with TMZ, she said that once Coleman had lapsed into a coma after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage in a fall in their Utah home, she believed there was no hope.

"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."

Bridges, meanwhile, said that his former pal had recently had heart surgery, in addition to a history of kidney problems and seizures, and asked fans to remember Coleman kindly, despite his sometimes troubled adulthood.

"Imagine having major health problems. Imagine getting ripped off of all your money. Imagine being raised in a household where he wasn't taught how to love himself or to love others around him," said Bridges. "So when he hit the world at an adult age, he wasn't prepared."

Coleman died last Friday. He was just 42.

—Additional reporting by Ashley Fultz

(Originally published June 3, 2010, at 3:45 p.m. PT)

Follow @eonline on Twitter!

Gary Coleman: A Life in Pictures revisits the star's highs and lows.