An 82-year-old Simi Valley widow who has been embroiled in a lengthy legal battle over her estimated $12-million fortune Wednesday announced her engagement to a 58-year-old man she had earlier sued on the ground that he "fraudulently induced" her to give him total control over her wealth.
Lucile Estes, descendant of a pioneer Ventura County family, said she plans to marry Bill Baker, a former Simi Valley city councilman and retired real estate broker. No date was set for the ceremony.
Estes said her attorney had filed papers Tuesday dismissing her lawsuit against Baker. That appeared to signal the end of a confusing legal battle, which was encouraged by some of Estes' family and friends who expressed concern that she was being duped out of her fortune.
Also withdrawn was a related action in which Estes' sister--Alma Chandler, 76--obtained a temporary court order barring Estes' minister from visiting Estes, accusing him of harassing them.
Estes, Baker and Chandler publicly discussed the case for the first time on the patio of Rosedown Estates, Baker's sprawling, red-brick home in western Simi Valley. Estes sat in a chair next to Baker, sharing a glass of iced tea. Chandler, sat a few feet away on a sofa.
"I love him," Estes said of Baker, as the two held hands. "He's honest. He's . . . just . . . everything."
The peaceful scene contradicted accusations in court documents by some of Estes' family members and friends, who said Baker unduly influenced the elderly woman and that Estes and Chandler quarreled often, sometimes coming to blows.
"We don't want to make any allegations against anyone," said Baker. "What we want to do is be an All-American family, settle down and enjoy life."
Chandler, a retired teacher who came to live with Estes in 1976, said the two sisters have a normal sibling rivalry, but added that she had taken good care of her older sister since Estes suffered a broken hip last year.
'None of Your Business'
Estes scoffed at concerns expressed by friends and relatives in legal depositions that she may not be competent to handle her own affairs. To those who wonder about her personal life, Estes said: "It's none of your business."
Estes said she did not know what prompted her to instruct her former attorney, Stanley E. Cohen, to file suit against Baker. The suit sought to remove Baker as a trustee of her trust fund and revoke the power of attorney she had given him. She has since dismissed Cohen as her attorney.
Baker said he met Estes 24 years ago and for years has given her free business advice involving land she owns in the Simi Valley and Moorpark areas. "All the years I've known Lucile, she has not paid me one cent to this day, other than the $100 donation she made to my campaign when I ran for the City Council in 1978," he said.
He blamed the suit against him on Estes' distant relatives, who he said had brainwashed her.
"I'm not marrying her whole family, and we're old enough to realize what we are doing," Baker said.