FOR three long months, the body of “The Jeffersons” star SHERMAN HEMSLEY has rested on ice in an El Paso funeral home while his loved ones battle over his estate and his remains.
The actor died of lung cancer at age 74 on July 24 – and his “beloved friend and partner” of 20 years, Flora Isela Enchinton Bernal, wants to bury him in El Paso, where the two lived. But Hemsley’s family wants his final resting place to be in Philadelphia, where he was raised.
“I’m pleading with everyone, ‘Please bury Sherman. Stop fighting and give my cousin the decent burial he has coming,’ ” the Rev. Michael George Wells, Hemsley’s second cousin, told The ENQUIRER.
To complicate the matter, a Philadelphia man named Richard Thornton – whom no one in Sherman’s family has ever heard of – has stepped forward, claiming to be the actor’s brother!
Thornton is now challenging Hemsley’s will, which directed that his $50,000 estate go to Flora. A DNA test to determine if Thornton is related to Hemsley was set to be revealed in court on Nov. 9.
Meanwhile, the star’s body remains on ice. And even after Thornton’s claim is resolved, it could be weeks, or longer, before he is finally laid to rest.
The Rev. Wells says his family is frustrated by all the legal wrangling.
“No one in my family has ever heard of Richard Thornton,” he said. “Sherman has a grave site waiting for him in Philadelphia, right next to his mother. It’s where he should be laid to rest, with his family and by his family – not by strangers.”