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Gary Coleman's ex-wife says she still had relationship with former star

Published May 8, 2012 7:54 am

Courts • The late actor's CEO is challenging Shannon Price's claim to the 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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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 • A Monday court hearing on the estate of the late Gary Coleman included testimony from a neighbor that the relationship between Coleman and ex-wife Shannon Price was far from the fairy-tale romance painted by Price.

Audra Wright, who lived across the street from the Santaquin home that Coleman and Price shared, told a 4th District Court judge that Price frequently complained about marital fights, financial woes and a lack of sex in the relationship.

"[Price] said she was staying with Gary [after their divorce] to further her own acting and modeling career," Wright testified.

Price and Anna Gray, who was CEO of Coleman's corporation, are facing off in court over control of Coleman's estate. Gray, who is representing herself, maintains that a 2005 will written by Coleman gives her control. She declined to speak with reporters after the hearing.

Mitchell Maughan, who is representing Price, said the case is not so much about a fortune than the disposition of Coleman's ashes and the future rights to his name and other intellectual property issues.

"He was not a zillionaire," Maughan said.

Wright's testimony stood in contrast to that of Price and others who testified that the "Diff'rent Strokes" star and Price were a couple who, despite their ups and downs, were madly in love.

"We decided that we couldn't be without each other," Price said, explaining why she moved back in with Coleman after they were secretly divorced in August 2008.

Price said she and Coleman never considered remarrying for the same reason they kept the divorce secret: They didn't want the publicity.

"He didn't want to have to explain [the divorce] to the public or the media," Price testified. "He did not like the media. We wanted to keep our lives private."

Sheila Ericson said she met the couple in 2007, when she became Coleman's agent. She said Coleman always referred to Price as his wife, even at a February 2010 business meeting, where Coleman said he would not do an animated pilot without Price as a co-star.

On a recording of the meeting between Coleman, Ericson and the producers, Coleman said he wanted to take some food home from the restaurant "for my wife."

Jared Hale, manager of the Chase Bank branch in Spanish Fork, testified that the couple maintained joint bank accounts, and acted like husband and wife when they came in. He said Coleman proclaimed Price "the light of my life."

Lee Johnson, who prepared Coleman's and Price's income taxes, said Coleman introduced Price as his wife in 2007, and their taxes were filed as a married couple until Coleman died. She said Coleman never said they were divorced.

Wright, however, said Price shared the fact that they were divorced within two weeks of the 2008 decree. And, she said Price was abusive to Coleman. In one instance, Price made Coleman come over to show bruising around his eye.

" She said, 'Did you ever see a black guy with a black eye?'" Wright recalled. "She called Gary over and said 'Show her your black eye.' "

Instead of holding hands, Price would grab Coleman by the wrist and pull him along, Wright said. "I think that made him look like a child."

And she said Price would come over to show her injuries Coleman inflicted on her, including a scratch on her left breast.

Wright said whenever she went into Coleman's house, it was a mess, with clothes piled up and carpeting coming off the steps. And Coleman and Price had separate bedrooms.

Gray pounced on Price's admission that after the divorce, her name was taken off the deed to their home because she didn't want the financial liability.

"It was y'all's home and y'all made the payments, but you thought that Gary should be liable for it?" Gray asked.

Price said Coleman bought the home before their marriage, and he was financially liable for it. Price also told the court that, as a condition of the divorce, she had to take her name off the house deed.

When Price introduced a 2009 Valentine card she gave Coleman as proof of their loving relationship, Gray pressed her for evidence that Coleman reciprocated that affection. Price said Coleman had given her notes and bought her presents, but she didn't have any available to show the court.

Nor did Price have receipts to show that the mortgage payments came from their joint bank account.

The hearing resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

dmeyers@sltrib.com

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