By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — Saying he is ill with cancer and has a blood clot, retired Lawrence police officer William Hale, who is accused of stealing nearly $70,000 from an elderly woman, is trying to get court dates postponed due to sickness.
On April 11, Hale is scheduled for criminal arraignment on larceny and forgery charges in Lawrence District Court. Tomorrow, Hale is also expected to appear in Boston before the state’s appeals court.
Hale is accused of stealing from the late Elizabeth B. Lacey, a woman known to friends and surrogate family members as “Aunt Betty.”
Late last week, however, Hale, 77, submitted a doctor’s note and motion to the state appeals court asking for a 30-day delay “due to grave cause.”
The 33-year police veteran said he was diagnosed with cancer late last year, has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for three months, has been hospitalized three times, and was recently diagnosed with a blood clot that makes walking difficult for him.
Hale attached a note from his physician Dr. Vartan Yeghiazarians who said in his “best medical opinion” he feels Hale should be excused from the appeals court appearance tomorrow and his April 11 arraignment.
“Mr. Hale is still recovering from his hospitalization and also developed thrombosis of his lower leg as a result,” Yeghiazarians wrote in the letter dated March 26. He said Hale has a follow-up appointment with him on April 11 and they will reassess his condition then.
Hale was previously represented by attorney John Hodges, who died last summer. Reached for comment yesterday, Hale said he “wasn’t sure” if he would hire a new lawyer. He confirmed he’s been sick and hospitalized for the past several months, thanked a reporter for calling to inquire about his health and declined further comment.
In Lawrence District Court, Hale is charged with uttering, forgery and larceny over $250. The thefts and forgery Hale is accused of occurred between May 3, 2007 and Sept. 5, 2007.
Lacey died at age 89 on May 1, 2007. At the time of her death, Hale was named beneficiary of Lacey’s will - a shock to her close friends and surrogate family who later contested the will in probate court. They said Lacey distrusted and disliked Hale because he badgered her for money.
Judge Mary Ann Sahagian threw out that will, however, 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, all Lawrence natives.
Hale then appealed Sahagian’s decision, prompting tomorrow’s hearing.
Both wills were prepared by a longtime acquaintance of Hale, lawyer Robert Kelley, who was previously the Northern Essex Register of Deeds. Kelley and Hale were also drinking buddies, according to court papers.
In both the probate and civil trials after Lacey’s death, Hale repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when asked if he cashed and deposited checks belonging to her. Sahagian referred Hale’s behavior to the District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office.
In late January, a state trooper filed the forgery and larceny charges against Hale. He’s accused of cashing $2,850 of Lacey’s pension checks and almost entirely draining a checking account that contained $66,000.
Lacey owned a home at 418 Andover St., which was worth $175,000 at the time of her death. She had another $170,000 in her savings and checking accounts.
In April 2012, in a civil action, Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley placed an attachment on Hale’s 7 Meadow St. home to recoup money he took from Lacey.
Hale is the son of a man Lacey dated in the 1950s. His relationship with Lacey and the dispute over the wills was exposed in a July 24, 2011 Sunday Eagle-Tribune article.
Bryan Kerman, the Methuen attorney representing the Wareing and McGuire families, declined comment for this story.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.