EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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April 30, 2014

Ex-officer dies without paying 'Aunt Betty' fraud judgment

LAWRENCE — A retired city police officer who admitted bilking a frail widow of tens of thousands of dollars has died without repaying any of the money to her heirs.

William Hale Sr. was ordered by a Lawrence District Court judge last October to pay $70,000 restitution to the heirs of Elizabeth Lacey. But he had not repaid any of the money at the time of his death earlier this month.

Hale died of natural causes on April 16 at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, according to a copy of his death certificate. No obituary was published. Hale, in court documents, previously said he was undergoing treatment for cancer.

Hale, a 33-year Lawrence police veteran, admitted there were sufficient facts to find him guilty of forging checks and stealing from Lacey after befriending her. Lacey died at age 89 on May 1, 2007.

Bryan Kerman, a Methuen attorney representing Lacey’s legal heirs, said he is exploring options to recoup the money Hale owed and declined further comment.

State police filed criminal charges accusing Hale of cashing $66,000 in checks belonging to Lacey after he repeatedly invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned about the checks during a Probate Court trial over her will.

Hale’s predatory relationship with Lacey was first exposed in a July 24, 2011, Sunday Eagle-Tribune story.

Lacey, who was known to her friends as “Aunt Betty,” had no living relatives at the time of her death. But members of her surrogate family were shocked to learn of a will that left everything to Hale, including her home at 418 Andover St. in Lawrence. They challenged the will’s validity in Essex County Probate Court.

In July 2011, Probate Court Judge Mary Ann Sahagian threw out the Hale will and recognized an earlier will leaving Lacey’s estate to James Wareing; Wareing’s mother, Joan McGuire; and his twin sisters, Denise Clegg and Diane Forrester. Wareing, his mother and sisters had been Lacey’s friends and adopted family for decades.

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