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Body of actor Sherman Hemsley stored in funeral home cooler, not buried, weeks after his death

By Matt Dougherty
Leonard Martinez
Published On: Jan 14 2014 12:30:33 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 01:52:59 PM CST

Reporter: Matt Dougherty

EL PASO, Texas -

The body of television icon Sherman Hemsley lies in a locked cooler at an East El Paso funeral home more than a month after his death.

"It is disgraceful," Flora Enchinton said. "It is sad. This was a man with dignity."

Enchinton said she has known Hemsley for 20 years and lived with him for more than a decade in El Paso. She said she was Hemsley’s manager as well as his partner and best friend.

A will signed by Hemsley in June 2012 lists Enchinton as the executrix of his estate, as well as the sole heir to all of his holdings. Hemsley also called her his "beloved partner" in the will.

A Philadelphia man who claims to be the brother of Hemsley is contesting the will. Richard Thornton’s contest of Hemsley’s will has halted his burial and memorial services.

An El Paso probate court has ordered that Hemsley's body stay locked in a freezer at the San Jose Funeral Home. Thornton is requesting all of Hemsley’s possessions as well as his frozen body.

"I have never heard of anyone with the name of Richard Thornton in the 20 years I have known Sherman," Enchinton said. "This is not what Sherman would have wanted."

Calls by ABC-7 to the listed number for Thornton in Philadelphia went unanswered. No biographical information exists stating that Hemsley had a brother and he has always been listed as an only child.

“Sherman left very worried about me, about me staying alone, what was going to happen me being alone if he was gone. That's what worried him the most. I guess maybe he sensed what was going to happen. It just gives me these emotions and feelings (that) all of a sudden there's these people that have never known anything about our life, about who we are, about what we're all about, about what we endured,” Enchinton said about the validity of her role in Hemsley’s life being questioned.

Hemsley was diagnosed with a large mass on his right lung in May and died on July 24 in his East El Paso home.

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