By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — Retired Lawrence police officer William Hale, who is accused of bilking an elderly woman’s estate for nearly $70,000, does not have to show up in a Boston courtroom today.
Instead of hearing directly from Hale, however, a panel of three judges will rule on his pending case based on information already filed with the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
Hale asked for his court appearance today to be postponed, claiming he has cancer and a blood clot in his leg.
The court denied his request late yesterday. Judges agreed instead to base their decision on legal briefs already filed, according to court information.
Hale, 77, claims he is the rightful beneficiary of the will of Elizabeth Lacey, who died at age 89 in 2007.
When Lacey died, the 33-year police officer was named sole beneficiary of her estate — which shocked her close friends and surrogate family members. Lacey disliked and distrusted Hale because he badgered her from money, her surrogate family members said.
The surrogate family sued in Essex County probate court and in 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 mother and sisters are all Lawrence natives and were Lacey’s friends for decades, they said.
Both wills were prepared by a longtime acquaintance of Hale, lawyer Robert Kelley, the former Northern Essex Register of Deeds. Kelley and Hale were also drinking buddies, according to court papers.
Hale appealed Sahagian’s decision to the state appeals court, triggering today’s hearing in Boston.
The appeals court can take up to 130 days to issue a decision.
Hale is also scheduled next week for criminal arraignment on uttering, larceny and forgery charges stemming for $66,000 in Lacey’s checks he allegedly cashed before and after her death. State police filed charges against Hale in late January after Hale repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when asked during probate and civil trials if he cashed and deposited checks belonging to Lacey.
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.
In his motion to the appeals court, Hale said he was diagnosed with cancer late last year, has been undergoing chemotherapy for three months, has been hospitalized three times and was recently diagnosed with a blood clot that makes it difficult for him to walk.
He attached a note from his physician, Dr. Vartan Yeghiarzarians who said “in his best medical opinion” Hale should be excused from today’s appeals court appearance and his arraignment in Lawrence District Court on April 11. The physician wrote that Hale’s next appointment with him is on April 11 and they will reassess his condition then.
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.