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Phoenix News – As Helpless As Children

Phoenix New Times
by Paul Rubin

Earl Davis left his wife the bulk of his $5 million estate. Through an attorney–not Wayne Legg–she set up a trust, a legal device that keeps an estate out of the public forum of Probate Court.

It isn’t certain how Wayne Legg became the attorney for the Davis trust. It is known that Geneva Holmes–the former employee of Webber Mackey–had taken care of the aged Ellen Davis. It is also known that Ellen Davis’ next-door neighbors–who knew Legg–became her trustees.

What can also be gleaned from public records is that, last February, Ellen Davis decided she no longer wanted Legg as her estate’s attorney or her neighbors as trustees.

She apparently made up her mind after hearing horror stories about the Legg-Mackey team from Geneva Holmes and others. The decision stood to cost Legg and the neighbors thousands of dollars each in fees.

In their stead, she chose her accountant, Wendell Jones, as trustee, and Wayne Legg’s old law partner, Douglas Cook, as her attorney.

The matter was a pressing one. Ellen Davis was dying of lung cancer, and was often hospitalized. From her Montana farm, Joanne Lindberg stayed in close contact with her ill, 87-year-old friend.

“She told me, ‘Joanne, I need help. I do not trust this man,’” Joanne Lindberg recalls. Ellen Davis was referring to Legg.

Soon after that, Joanne Lindberg says, “I called Ellen and she was crying. It sounded real bad. We decided to go down there to see her.” The Lindbergs departed so fast, they left “a sinkful of dirty dishes” and hit the road, driving nonstop to Arizona.

“When we saw Ellen at the hospital, she looked so terribly sad,” Joanne Lindberg recalls. “I asked my husband if he’d mind if I spent the night with her. He said, ‘Fine,’ so I grabbed a blanket and drove over there.”
Ellen Davis’ next-door neighbors–the former trustees–were already at Mesa’s Valley Lutheran Hospital. They told her they were waiting for Wayne Legg, who soon showed up.

“He told me, ‘I’m going back to write a new will,’” Joanne Lindberg says. “It will put the [neighbors] back as trustees and me as the attorney. That’s the way Ellen wants it. Don’t let anyone in this room.’”
Joanne Lindberg soon went in to see Ellen Davis. “She told me, ‘I have to sign it. I have to make it up to them.’”

While Legg was gone, his former colleagues Cook and Taylor showed up. An argument ensued between Ellen Davis’ neighbors and the attorneys. “It wasn’t a happy situation,” Douglas Cook confirms, putting his head in his hands at the memory. “It was a bad one.”

The attorneys later left the hospital, but Joanne Lindberg stayed to see if Wayne Legg would return as promised. Shortly after midnight, Legg strode back in and asked Joanne Lindberg to be a witness to the signing of Ellen Davis’ new will.

She declined. She wouldn’t leave her friend’s side. Ellen Davis then refused to sign the document. Flashing his temper, Legg again left.

Joanne Lindberg’s husband, Glenn, came to the hospital a little after 5 a.m., shortly before Ellen Davis’ next-door neighbors returned. A kind of cat-and-mouse game continued between the two couples. But Wayne Legg never returned.

Ellen Davis insisted she would sign nothing. The neighbors left. The following day, the Lindbergs took Ellen Davis home. They stayed with her for the next three weeks, until she lapsed into her final unconsciousness.

Bidding their friend goodbye, the Lindbergs finally returned to Cut Bank the day before Ellen Davis died last March 17.

“If I had not been down in Arizona and seen how bad she looked and gone back to that hospital,” Joanne Lindberg says, “I just know she would have signed that new will.”
During one of her lucid moments in those final days, Joanne Lindberg says, “Ellen said something we’ll never forget. It was this: ‘If I only could live long enough to hear the jail cell clang behind Mr. Legg.’

“She wanted it not just for herself, but for all the people he had taken money from.

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