The Quick And the Dead: Legal Battle Keeps Carroll Shelby's Body In Dallas Morgue Limbo

on June 19 2012 2:33 PM
  • Carroll Shelby with new Mustang at the 2005 New York International Auto Show.
    Carroll Shelby with new Mustang at the 2005 New York International Auto Show. Reuters
  • Carroll Shelby in CSX2000, the first Shelby Cobra circa 1962.
    Carroll Shelby appears in the CSX2000, the first Shelby Cobra, circa 1962. Shelby
  • Carroll Shelby with the 2011 Shelby GT350.
    Carroll Shelby leans on a 2011 Shelby GT350. Shelby
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Legendary racing driver and muscle car builder Carroll Shelby always had a flair for the dramatic in life, from his earliest days as a chicken farmer to Le Mans champion to muscle car designer. As in life, so too in death, it seems.

That's because there is a macabre legal battle between his three children and the last of his seven wives for possession of his remains that has left the body chilling in a Dallas County morgue, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

The custody battle for Carroll Shelby's remains erupted following his death on May 10 at the age of 89, and his body has remained in the Dallas County Morgue since. Shelby's children want to cremate him, however, his last surviving wife, Cleo Shelby, says that she should be the one to dispose of his remains, according to the Los Angeles Times report. Carroll and Cleo married in 1997 but the marriage encountered some speed bumps and the couple had a divorce petition pending in Texas.

The already grisly case had a wrench thrown in it when the Dallas County Medical Examiner Dr. Jeffrey Barnard made a mysterious comment that the corpus delicti belonged to him for the time being because an allegation was made which falls within Texas criminal procedure, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Dallas County Institute of Forensic Sciences' medical examiner's office and crime investigation lab was not immediately available for clarification.

Carroll left written directions on February 8 that his eldest son, Michael Shelby, cremate his body and distribute his ashes between his living children and his family plot in Leesburg, Texas. An earlier document put funeral arrangements into the hands of Michael. However, Carroll's estranged wife put the brakes on the cremation and has alleged that the Feb. 8 missive to his son was forged because Carroll was too infirm at the time to sign it. She also says that in August 2010, Carroll gave her a healthcare power of attorney.

My husband informed Michael Shelby that he was going to appoint me as his primary health care agent. When he did so he said he was designating me because I was always with him, Michael Shelby lived in Texas, and that I had 'saved his life' on several previous occasions, Cleo alleged in the legal filing, according to The Associated Press.

Cleo has also accused Michael of sneaking Carroll out of the UCLA Medical Center and bringing him to Dallas to prevent her from seeing him, according to the Los Angeles Times.

One of Carroll's sons, Patrick, has said that he expects the case to drag on for weeks, according to The Associated Press. In the meantime, the former racecar driver and so-called Chili Head (Shelby was the founder of the International Chili Society) will cool his heals in Dallas.