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September 2, 2013

Ex-cop's claim to widow's estate rejected

LAWRENCE — A state appeals court has rejected a retired Lawrence police officer’s claim on the estate of an elderly woman he befriended and allegedly stole from.

William Hale, 77, a 33-year veteran of the Lawrence Police Department, said he was the rightful beneficiary of the will of Elizabeth Lacey, who died at age 89 on May 1, 2007.

Lacey, who had no living blood relatives at the time of her death, was known to her close friends as “Aunt Betty.” When she died, Lacey’s friends were shocked to learn of a will left everything to Hale and they challenged its validity.

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 Forester. Wareing, his mother and sisters had been Lacey’s friends for decades.

In a decision issued last Thursday, the state appeals board upheld Sahagian’s 2011 decision on the will.

The decision also states there is sufficient evidence that Hale used “undue influence” with the frail, elderly woman and “appears to have engaged in a broader scheme to misappropriate Lacey’s assets.”

Hale is accused of cashing $66,000 in checks in Lacey’s name both before and after her death. In a separate legal action filed by state police in Lawrence District Court, Hale is facing larceny, forgery and uttering charges for the alleged acts. During the probate trial, Hale repeatedly invoked his 5th Amendment privilege against self incrimination when questioned about Lacey’s checks.

The appeals court decision referenced the checks, noting that from Feb. 5, 2005, to Sept. 5, 2007, Hale endorsed and cashed about 20 of Lacey’s pension checks. From April 30, 2007, through Nov. 20, 2007, Hale forged Lacey’s signature on 19 checks issued from her Sovereign Bank account, according to the decision.

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