A New Hampshire police sergeant broke departmental rules by not refusing an elderly woman's offer to leave him her riverfront house, a review panel says. The sergeant received $2.7 million in property and stocks in an estate case that's still being disputed.
The case has set off debates in Portsmouth, N.H., over police policies covering gifts — and over the motivations of the sergeant, who reportedly first met Geraldine Webber in 2010, when he was investigating a potential crime in the area. He became a regular visitor, both on- and off-duty.
In its report issued Tuesday afternoon, the review panel said the sergeant should have either turned down the bequest or resigned from the police department. But it also faulted his superiors, both for not applying the Portsmouth Police Department's policies and for failing to communicate the developments to the police commission, NPR reports.
Geraldine Webber was in her 90s and had dementia when she died in December of 2012, according to news reports. Seven months earlier, she had changed her will to leave the sergeant items that included her house, stocks and bonds, and a Cadillac. Seacoastonline says Webber's final will diminished "previous bequests she had made to medical institutions and the Portsmouth police and fire departments."
Some of those parties who saw their bequests shrink have challenged Webber's will. That line of inquiry remains open, as probate court hearings have focused on whether Webber was capable of managing her affairs and whether the sergeant unduly influenced her.
Ralph Holmes, the lawyer who revised her will over the course of eight months, says Webber was a sharp woman who knew about her holdings. Local newspaper The Union-Leader says Holmes also detailed some of the time Webber spent with the police officer.