LOWELL (CBS) — Dozens of ducks and geese still surrounded the house of Erika Magill Wednesday afternoon. She’s the South Lowell woman locally famous for feeding the birds, day in and day out for the 50-plus years she lived there.
Those who knew her describe a woman who loved local politics, who sent greeting cards to everyone she knew for every occasion, and who “was very well known for knitting every new baby a bonnet, a sweater and a blanket,” according to Lowell attorney Eileen Donoghue. “Everybody had those gifts from Erika.”
Now, though, she’s famous for another reason.
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports.
Her neighbor is the city of Lowell’s senior building inspector, David St. Hilaire.
Authorities say he had tried to buy Magill’s property for years; she always said no.
After the 86-year-old broke her hip last summer, St. Hilaire went to her nursing home and, according to the Middlesex District Attorney, he forced her to sign over her property to him. The D.A. says the 53-year-old wrote the new mortgage himself and included a clause that let him take full ownership of the property as soon as Mrs. Magill died – which she did, about two weeks later. St. Hilaire never had to pay a dime.
Magill had recently updated her will with Donoghue. She also named Donoghue her executor.
“She had a very humble estate, just her little house. That was all she had in the world and it meant a lot to her,” explained Donoghue, who also said Magill had very specific plans for what she wanted to happen after she died. Magill was a widow and had no children.
“In fact, she wanted to leave the house to a family member of the family she’d been friendly with for over 50 years.”
But the house now belongs to St. Hilaire.
“That’s the stunning and really disappointing turn of events here,” added Donoghue. “It was stunning to say the least to find out that a deed and mortgage were signed and recorded at a time when she was very infirm.”
A grand jury indicted St. Hilaire Tuesday on charges of larceny of more than $250 from elderly person and of obtaining a signature under false pretenses. Some neighbors are not at all surprised to find out St. Hilaire is charged with these crimes.
“A lot of the neighbors are very excited today that they finally indicted him,” said Dennis Parent. He lives down the street and he used to work with St. Hilaire before getting laid off last spring.
Parent says on Tuesday he “went door to door in the neighborhood to tell everyone that he was indicted. Everybody is ecstatic today . . . he was such a jerk to everybody in the neighborhood.”
HE’S NOT LIKED
Like attorney Donoghue, Parent tells WBZ-TV that Mrs. Magill did not get along with St. Hilaire; they all doubt she would have ever willingly given him all she owned.
Added Parent, “She says, I don’t like that man, I don’t trust him. So, she really never liked him.”
St. Hilaire was not at home when WBZ-TV tried to talk to him. He is on unpaid administrative leave from his city job. An arraignment date has not yet been set.
If St. Hilaire is found guilty, a judge could order him to give the house to the woman named in Mrs. Magill’s will.