By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — After months of no shows, claims of illness and hospitalizations, retired Lawrence police officer William Hale showed up for his arraignment on forgery and larceny charges in Lawrence District Court yesterday.
The 33-year Lawrence police officer is accused of stealing nearly $70,000 from Elizabeth Lacey, an elderly Andover Street woman known to friends as “Aunt Betty.”
Yesterday was Hale’s fourth scheduled arraignment date in the case, although criminal charges were filed against him in January.
Dressed in black pants and a gray jacket, Hale, 77, was released on personal recognizance by Judge Lynn Rooney. At the request of prosecutors, who did not seek any bail, Rooney issued Hale a warning to stay away from the victims in the case. He was also issued a bail warning, which means if he is arrested and charged in any other criminal cases, he can be held in jail for 60 days, Rooney explained.
Hale was represented yesterday by Ryan Loughlin, who declined to comment on the charges and Hale’s defense.
According to court records, Hale claims he is the rightful beneficiary of the will of Elizabeth Lacey, who died at age 89 in 2007. Lacey’s friends and surrogate family members were shocked she left everything to Hale, a man she said she disliked because he badgered her for money. Hale is the son of a man Lacey dated in the 1950s.
In July 2011, Judge Mary Ann Sahagian threw out the Hale will and approved an earlier will leaving everything to James Wareing, Wareing’s mother Joan McGuire and his two twin sisters, Denise Clegg and Diane Forrester. Wareing, his sisters and mother were Lacey’s friends for decades.
Hale appealed Sahagian’s decision on the will to the state appeals court. In March, Hale asked for a hearing before the state appeals court to be postponed, saying he has cancer and a blood clot in his leg. The appeals court denied his request, however, deciding instead to base their decision on legal briefs already filed with the court. To date, the appeals court has not made a decision in the case.
A year ago, in a civil action, Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley placed a $70,000 attachment on Hale’s 7 Meadow St. home.
State police filed uttering, larceny and forgery charges against Hale in January. He is accused of cashing $66,000 in Lacey’s checks before and after her death. When he was questioned about the checks during civil and probate trials, Hale repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
Lacey owned a home at 418 Andover St., which was worth $175,000 at the time of her death. She also had another $170,000 in savings and checking accounts.
Uttering and forgery convictions carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail. The larceny charge carries a 5 year maximum jail sentence.
Hale’s relationship with Lacey and the dispute over her wills was exposed in a July 24, 2011 Sunday Eagle-Tribune article.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.