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Williams' shift from will must be proved

Bobby-Jo Williams Ferrell files a motion demanding papers showing that Ted Williams wanted to be frozen.

By CARRIE JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 20, 2002


Bobby-Jo Williams Ferrell files a motion demanding papers showing that Ted Williams wanted to be frozen.

INVERNESS -- Ted Williams' children and the executor of his estate have 30 days to produce documents that support their claim that the baseball legend wanted to be frozen after his death.

A lawyer for Bobby-Jo Williams Ferrell, Williams' oldest daughter, who is feuding with her siblings over their father's remains, filed a motion Thursday compelling the other parties to submit any documents, letters or contracts that show that Williams changed his mind about being cremated, which he requested in his will.

"Show me or tell me," said Richard "Spike" Fitzpatrick, Ferrell's lawyer. "I want to see what kind of paper trail there is out there."

The motion also asks for any letters or contracts between the other parties and Alcor Life Extension Foundation, where Williams' body was sent hours after his death July 5.

Ferrell, 54, is seeking to retrieve her father's body from the Arizona lab, cremate it and sprinkle his ashes off the coast of Florida, as Williams' will dictates.

Al Cassidy, the executor of the estate, and Williams' two children from another marriage, John-Henry and Claudia Williams, said the former Hall of Famer had a change of heart after the will was drafted in December 1996 and "expressed a desire" to be cyronically preserved.

In court papers earlier this week, John-Henry and Claudia Williams argued that they were the sole owners of their father's body, and that not even the executor of the estate could challenge their authority.

They also said the Citrus court did not have jurisdiction because the remains were no longer in the county.

Through their lawyer, Robert Goldman, the siblings said that their father's will was not the final authority on his last wishes. "The last will of Theodore S. Williams does not control the disposition of his body," their motion said.

Fitzpatrick submitted his response late Friday. He argued that Florida courts had ruled that it is the executor of an estate -- not the children -- who has ultimate responsibility for carrying out a person's last wishes as outlined in a will.

Fitzpatrick cited a case from Florida's 3rd District Court of Appeal in which the personal representatives balked at following the decedent's wish to be cremated.

The court ordered them to follow the will and reminded them that it was "their duty as personal representatives to administer the estate in accordance with the terms of the decedent's will."

As for the siblings' claim that the Citrus court does not have jurisdiction, Fitzpatrick argued that while it may be widely reported the remains of the famous slugger are in a vat at Alcor, no documented proof has been submitted as to where their father may be.

Neither Goldman nor lawyers for Cassidy returned telephone calls seeking comment Friday.

While John-Henry Williams, 33, and Claudia Williams, 30, may think that the will is not the final word on their father's last wishes, the rules that the lab they sent him to has established on its application say otherwise.

According to Alcor's form, anyone who wants to be stored at its Scottsdale lab must change his will to reflect his wishes.

"Alcor does not require that you have a will in order to become a member. However, if you already have a will which has provisions contrary to the goals of cryonics (for example, if your will states that you do not want cryonic suspension, or if it requires cremation, burial or other dispositions of your human remains after your legal death), these will invalidate your cryonic suspension agreement," the application reads.

Representatives from Alcor did not return several telephone calls Friday.

Fitzpatrick, who had 20 days to file a response, took only two.

"I don't see any reason to waste time -- ever," he said. "This is a very clear issue. . . . They say Ted Williams changed his mind. I want them to show me that."

Meanwhile, the media attention surrounding Williams' death has dramatically increased interest in cryonic preservation.

Jackson Zinn, the president of the International Cryonics Foundation, an educational group based in California, said he had received more telephone calls than usual since the controversy erupted the day after Williams' death.

"It's definitely increased the number of inquiries," he said. "That happens periodically whenever there's some sensationalistic press event."

Zinn, 58, who plans to have his body stored at Alcor, said there were about 1,000 people in the country who have made arrangements to be frozen after death. He expects that number to grow in the future.

"There may be ups and downs, but success is inevitable," Zinn said. "People want to live."

-- Reporter Carrie Johnson can be reached at 860-7309 or cjohnson@sptimes.com.

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