A Colorado probate judge has ruled that custody of a deceased grandmother's head will go to an Arizona-based cryonics company, not her family.
The legal battle over Mary Robbins' head has been building since her death on Feb. 9 from cancer. Her children, led by her daughter, Darlene Robbins, lost their argument today that their mother's contract with the non-profit Alcor Life Extension Foundation was voided in the days before her death.
Mary Robbins signed a contract with Alcor in 2006, giving the group the right to freeze her head in hopes of bringing it back to life some time in the future.
The family had argued that Mary Robbins changed her mind in her final days, but the court said she never put her request to cancel the contract in writing. That is required by Colorado law, the court said as part of its decision.
The family says it will appeal the judge's ruling, which, according to the Pueblo Chieftan, includes a 72-hour stay for Robbins' children to formally take the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Alcor, which is based in Arizona, is the same company that took possession of baseball great Ted Williams' head after a legal battle between his children over whether Williams really wanted his head frozen. The company was also accused of mishandling and damaging Williams' head once it had custody.
"We are very pleased that the written desires of Ms. Robbins will be fulfilled," Alcor attorney Eric Bentley said in a written statement released shortly after the hearing. "This case has always been about the written intentions of Ms. Robbins."
Robert Scranton, a lawyer for Darlene Robbins, said before today's ruling that he took on the case after receiving a frantic phone call from the funeral home that Alcor representatives were looking to collect the woman's head.
He argued in court that Robbins, a 71-year-old retired nurse and grandmother of 10, verbally dissolved her agreement with the company in the days before she died, realizing she could not, in her weakened state, follow through with the protocols required by Alcor.
He questioned whether the original agreement, though bearing a valid signature, was even legal, calling it "vague."
"It's kind of this general idea that we'll freeze you, we'll do the best we can," Scranton said. "It's not like freezing a chicken to thaw it out later and cook it."
Clifford Wolff, an attorney for Alcor, told ABCNews.com last month that Colorado law is very clear -- all anatomical gifts must be spelled out in writing and must be canceled in writing. He insisted the company was battling with the Robbins family to preserve their mother's wishes, not to recoup any financial losses.
"The issue of money is not the issue in this lawsuit," he said. "The issue is fulfilling the written desire of Ms. Robbins."
Alcor has repeatedly asked the Robbins family for any sort of written proof that Robbins changed her mind, but never received any such documents, he said.
"What they want with the body, I have no idea," Darlene Robbins said last month. "It has to just be for money. I can't think of any other reason why they would pursue her body."
Scranton said Robbins had long planned on freezing her head in hopes technology would one day allow her to be revived. When she signed up with Alcor in 2006, she took out a $50,000 annuity and named Alcor as the beneficiary to cover the harvesting and storage.