PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A former Medford police detective who specialized in investigating elder abuse has been accused of using her expertise to exploit the dementia of a Portland lawyer before his death last year.
The daughter of Victor Calzaretta says in a $4 million lawsuit filed in Portland that she was in line to inherit his estate until Calzaretta married the detective, Sue Campbell, after a brief courtship. Calzaretta changed his will in 2011 to make his wife the executor and sole beneficiary.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Diane Miller of La Center, Washington, says the detective was familiar with the signs of dementia and married Calzaretta — her elder by 13 years — "not because she loved him," but to get access to his estate.
"Campbell's actions were taken for the improper purpose of financially exploiting an elderly demented man for her own financial benefit," the lawsuit states.
Sue Campbell Calzaretta declined comment by phone Thursday. Her lawyer, Jim Callahan, said his client adamantly denies the allegations, and he spoke no further.
Victor Calzaretta, who died at 72, worked as a police officer before switching careers in the early 1980s and, according to lawsuit, amassing an estate worth about $4 million.
In July 2003, he made out a will leaving his estate to his second wife, Anita. If she died before Victor Calzaretta, the estate would go to Miller. Anita Calzaretta died in 2004.
The lawsuit states Calzaretta began showing signs of dementia in 2008, and it worsened the following year.
Toward the end of his legal career, Calzaretta was hit with two negligence complaints, court records show. One of them was filed by a client whose lawsuit was tossed by a judge early into a November 2010 trial. A news report from the time said the judge sharply criticized Calzaretta for his lack of preparation, including his inability to even say when his next witnesses would show.
According to the lawsuit, Calzaretta had been friends with Campbell and bought her a wedding dress in 1994. The two, however, went years without seeing each other until Campbell invited Calzaretta to attend a funeral with her in February 2010. They started dating and got married two months later.
Campbell worked for years investigating abuse cases involving the elderly. In 2007, the state Department of Human Services honored her as one of 11 "Everyday Heroes" in the fight against the crime. The agency said in a news release that the detective went "above and beyond" her professional duty by taking victims of elder abuse on outings, walking their dogs, baking them desserts and celebrating holidays with them.
Calzaretta's will, a copy of which was found in Jackson County Probate Department records, is similar to the 2003 terms except that Sue Calzaretta's name is substituted for the second wife. If Sue Calzaretta had preceded her husband in death, the estate would have gone to Diane Miller.
Victor Calzaretta's other surviving child, Richard Calzaretta of Vancouver, Washington, was shut out in both versions.
Tara Lawrence, the lawyer for Diane Miller, said her client could not be interviewed and she wouldn't discuss Miller's financial situation.
"(The lawsuit) has so much less to do with finances," Lawrence said Thursday. "It certainly plays a factor. But Diane is bringing this for justice for her father."
One of Victor Calzaretta's siblings, William Calzaretta, said he couldn't shed any light on his brother's relationship with Sue Campbell. But, he added, the family also didn't know anything about Victor's first and second wives until he married them.
"He never communicated with us," he said.