Fate of Grandmother's Frozen Head Now in Colorado Court

Colorado family trying to keep mom's head from being taken by cryonics co.

ByABC News
February 22, 2010, 2:54 PM

Feb. 23, 2010— -- A Colorado woman's plans for life after death have led her family and acryonics company fighting in court over custody of her head.

The body of Mary Robbins is tucked away in a Colorado Springs funeral home while her children protest a document she signed years ago that gives Alcor Life Extension Foundation the right to freeze her head in hopes of bringing it back to life some time in the future.

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 abusing William's head once it had custody.

The company is now in a legal fight with the family of Mary Robbins, who died on Feb. 9.

"It's quite literally giving me nightmares," Robbins' daughter, Darlene Robbins, told ABCNews.com.

"Go away," she said of the company. "Let us cremate our mother, which is what we want to do."

Robert Scranton, a lawyer for Darlene Robbins, said 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's arguing that the 71-retired nurse and grandmother of 10 verbally dissolved her agreement with the company in the days before she died of cancer after 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, is 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 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 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 has not received any such documents, he said.

"What they want with the body, I have no idea," Darlene Robbins said. "It has to just be for money. I can't think of any other reason why they would pursue her body."