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Judge rules actor Sherman Hemsley's will is valid; former Air Force veteran to be buried at Fort Bliss cemetery

By Matt Dougherty
Published On: Nov 09 2012 12:30:04 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 07:29:39 PM CST

Matthew Dougherty reports

EL PASO, Texas -

El Paso County Judge Patricia Chew ruled Friday afternoon that actor Sherman Hemsley's will is valid.

Flora Enchinton-Bernal is listed as the sole beneficiary of Hemsley's estate in the will Hemsley signed in June, about a month before his death on July 24 from complications of lung cancer.

The judge's ruling means that Hemsley's estate will go to Enchinton-Bernal, whom Hemsley referred to as his "beloved partner" in the will.

Enchinton-Bernal said she plans on having Hemsley, an Air Force veteran and former postal worker, buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery with full military honors.

A date has not been set for the funeral.

"He became my best friend, also business partner. My brother, my family. We are the ones who are going to suffer this Thanksgiving," Enchinton-Bernal said.

The validity of Hemsley's will was contested by Richard Thornton, 71, of Philadelphia, who claims to be Hemsley's half-brother. Hemsley's estate has been valued at about $50,000.

Thornton's attorney, Mark T. Davis, said DNA results show Thornton and Hemsley are half-brothers but Davis said in a statement last week that Chew was not going to allow the DNA results because they were not submitted by the Oct. 15 deadline.

On Friday, Chew did not allow the DNA results to be admitted because they were submitted passed the deadline and she said the results were not pertinent to the disposition of the body.

Davis said after the hearing that he will seek a stay of Chew's ruling.

The first witness to take the stand Friday was the attorney asked to prepare Hemsley's will.

"At no point in time did I believe (Hemsley) lacked testamentary capacity," attorney Julian Horowitz said on the stand. "(Hemsley) indicated that at the time of his death, he wanted all of his possessions to pass to Ms. Bernal."

All biographical information and previous interviews with Hemsley indicate he had no brothers or sisters.

Testimony got heated in the courtroom when Davis cross-examined Horowitz.

"You just threw him the will and said 'sign this'?" Davis asked.

"No, I did not do that, Mr. Davis, and you know I didn't do that," Horowitz said.

Davis also questioned Horowitz on what medication Hemsley was taking the day he signed the will from an El Paso hospital bed.  Horowitz said he did not know, but Hemsley did not appear affected.

Davis also asked Horowitz why Enchinton-Bernal had requested his services to draw up the will.

"She had resisted calling a lawyer because she didn't want to approach the subject of Hemsley dying," Horowitz said. "Mr. Hemsley had been insistent that she call a lawyer for three years to create a will. (Hemsley) had as much confidence in her after he passed as when he was still alive in her ability to carry out his wishes."

Thornton made a trip from Philadelphia to El Paso to testify in the case.

"Sherman Hemsley is my brother," Thornton said. "I didn't even know he was living in El Paso."

The actor's body has been locked in a refrigeration unit at an El Paso funeral home until a ruling on it has been made.

To read ABC-7's past stories on Hemsley, click on the links under Related Content.

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