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Officer in will case: 'I stand behind everything I did for her'

Union Leader Correspondent

May 06. 2015 9:11PM
Sgt. Aaron Goodwin, of the Portsmouth, N.H. Police Dept., is cross examined by attorney David Eby while testifying in the Geraldine Webber Revocable Living Trust hearing on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at the 7th Circuit-Probate Division-Dover, N.H. (Rich Beauchesne/Portsmouth Herald via AP, Pool)
  • Should Portsmouth police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin receive $2.7M from the estate of the elderly widow with dementia he befriended?
  • Yes
  • 41%
  • No
  • 59%
  • Total Votes: 1534

DOVER — Portsmouth police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin has no regrets about the help he gave the elderly woman who left much of her $2.7 million estate to him in her will and the friendship they developed.

“I stand behind everything I did for her. I’m proud of it and I wouldn’t change anything,” Goodwin testified Wednesday on the eighth day of a hearing to decide whether Webber was mentally competent when she signed a new will and whether Goodwin influenced her to change it in the months before her death in 2012.

Goodwin wrapped up his second day of testimony in the Dover probate court Wednesday morning.

He was followed by Gary Holmes, the Hampton lawyer who agreed to rewrite Webber’s will in May 2012 despite red flags raised by other lawyers that included concerns about dementia.

Goodwin’s big inheritance is being challenged. It included the 93-year-old Webber’s waterfront home, its contents, stocks and bonds, and the Cadillac she named Tuxedo.

Goodwin spent Wednesday morning being cross-examined by David Eby, a lawyer representing parties contesting the will.

Some of Eby’s questioning focused on an internal investigation conducted by Portsmouth police Capt. Frank Warchol after Webber’s former longtime attorney, James Ritzo, complained about Goodwin’s relationship with Webber and how she wanted him in her will.

Eby asked Goodwin why he didn’t tell Warchol when he was interviewed that Webber wanted him to inherit her house and its contents and that he had tried to help her find a new lawyer for her estate planning.

Goodwin testified that he wasn’t trying to keep any secrets.

“I would have told him if he had asked,” Goodwin said, adding, “If I had been asked specifically about any of this stuff I would have answered it.”

Goodwin has testified that he met Webber for the first time on Oct. 20, 2010, when he went to her house to investigate a possible crime in the area.

They quickly developed a friendship and on Dec. 24, 2010, Webber informed Goodwin that she wanted to leave her house to him.

It wasn’t long before she was offering more of her estate to Goodwin.

While he initially said no when he heard about the house, Goodwin eventually decided that he would leave it up to Webber, whom he saw regularly and offered assistance with medical issues and other household responsibilities.

“I told her that she can do whatever makes her happy and I wasn’t going to stop her,” Goodwin testified.

A year after they met, Webber asked Goodwin to pick the stocks he wanted from her portfolio.

“I told her I would not pick any stocks,” he said, adding that he told Webber to “do whatever you want to do.”

He agreed to help her find a new lawyer for estate planning.

During his testimony, Holmes recalled that the first time he spoke with Webber about her estate planning was in August 2011. He claims he met with her 10 times before the new will was drawn up and signed.

While he was aware of questions raised about her mental capacity and memory issues, Holmes said that during his discussions with Webber she was lucid and was able to make decisions and communicate. He said she knew the value of her assets.

“I was coming to the opinion that she was capacitated,” he said.

Holmes said he “respects a person’s right to make decisions with regard to their property” and that his job is to represent their interests.

He also testified that Webber made her desires about Goodwin’s inheritance clear.

“We talked about him. We talked about how important he was in her life,” he said during questioning from his own attorney, Ralph Holmes.

Holmes testified that early on in their conversations, Webber told him that she wanted to make sure Goodwin got her house.

When asked if Webber ever felt Goodwin was taking advantage of her, Holmes said, “She never expressed anything like that to me.”

He added, “She was very clear in her thoughts and she was very independent. She wanted to maintain her independence and her control.”

The hearing is expected to wrap up today.

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