Friends of Sherman Hemsley in El Paso say they have been unable to have a funeral for the beloved actor and his body remains stored in the freezer of an East El Paso funeral home as his will is contested.
Hemsley's estate was left to Flora Isela Enchinton, 56, after he died on July 24 of lung cancer.
Local television station, KVIA-Channel 7, first reported the story Tuesday.
Enchinton and Hemsley were best friends and business partners, she said. In the hospital, Hemsley told doctors that she was his next of kin, she said.
However, a man named Richard Thornton is challenging the will claiming he is the Hemsley's brother and rightful next-of-kin.
Because the challenge must be settled in El Paso County's Probate Court No. 1, Hemsley's body has not been buried and instead has been kept at a local funeral home.
"Realistically, I've really been very surprised," Enchinton said. "You don't know what this world is about until something like this happens."
Enchinton said that she and Hemsley lived together, along with 72-year-old Kenny Johnston, for 16 years.
Johnston was Hemsley's business partner and together they were going to manage Enchinton's daughter, who was a singer. Over time Enchinton joined the two men as a business partner and helped manage Hemsley.
Hemsley and Johnston moved to El Paso and shared a house with Enchinton. After Johnston suffered a stroke, Enchinton and Hemsley were his caretakers.
"I was not only his manager, he was my best friend," Enchinton said. "This was someone close to me. He was a large part of my life."
Enchinton said the dispute over his estate has been stressful and made the grieving period tougher that she ever anticipated.
"The most important thing for me is to do what is right for Sherman," she said. "To give him his dignity and respect that he deserves. This is something embarrassing for his name right now."