Hopwood woman accused of not sharing mother’s estate with siblings
A Scottdale man told a Fayette County jury on Tuesday he will never forget the day his sister allegedly threatened to burn his collection of 300,000 baseball cards — including a rare 1952 card worth $10,000.
“She said, those cards weren’t yours anymore, that they’re part of the estate,” testified Michael Mehall, 41, on the first day of Marlene Wesolowsky’s trial. “If I want to, I can take them out to the garden and burn them.”
Wesolowsky, 49, of Hopwood is charged by state police at Uniontown with theft. Prosecutors contend that as administratrix of her late mother’s estate, Wesolowsky failed to properly distribute its assets, including Mehall’s baseball card collection.
Other items police said are missing from Rosemary Mehall’s estate include a doll collection, coins, jewelry, collectors’ knives, a mink coat and a baseball and bat — both autographed by Roberto Clemente.
Among the missing cards, Mehall testified, was a rare 1952 Topps No. 407 Eddie Mathews Milwaukee Braves card he valued at $10,000.
“It’s the last card in that whole entire series, and that’s the most collected set in that collection,” Mehall said.
Other missing cards, Mehall testified, include a 1909 Bill O’Hara card valued at $6,000, a 1933 Lou Gehrig card valued at $3,000, a 1952 Mickey Mantle card valued at $2,500 and a 1952 Roberto Clemente card valued at $2,200.
Mehall testified he had at least 10 complete card collections, including a 1968 Topps set valued at $3,000 and 1969 Topps set valued at $6,000. Other cards in the missing collection depicted greats Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Nolan Ryan and Ernie Banks.
Mehall testified he collected the baseball cards for more than 25 years. As a child, he said, he acquired many of them while accompanying his mother to yard sales and flea markets.
“I would just try to save my money as a little kid and do anything I could to collect cards,” Mehall testified. “I loved to do it. It was everything I remember of my mom.”
He continued to collect the cards as an adult, storing them at his mother’s Hopwood residence.
Mehall testified he last saw the entire collection when he visited his mother’s house during breaks from her viewings at a Hopwood funeral home in January 2004. A few weeks later, he testified, Wesolowsky changed the locks on their mother’s house.
“We were locked out,” Mehall testified.
Mehall said he and his other siblings were not allowed in the house again until August 2007.
He testified it was then that Wesolowsky, apparently angry because her siblings had hired an attorney, threatened to “burn my whole collection in the garden.”
Mehall testified he retrieved some cards from the attic but did not have access to the locked basement, where the most valuable cards were kept. When he and his siblings were next allowed in the house, in November 2007, those cards were gone, he testified.
Another brother, Ernie Mehall of Hopwood, said his Roberto Clemente-autographed baseball and bat are missing from his mother’s house.
Ernie Mehall said he was 7 years old when he acquired the bat while attending a 1971 Pirates game with his late father and an uncle. His uncle, he said, knew ushers at the ballpark and had them take the bat to Clemente for his autograph.
Clemente signed the bat, he said, and threw in an autographed baseball. Ernie Mehall said the ball was valued at $8,000, and a collector once advised him the bat is “priceless.”
More importantly, Ernie Mehall said, was the sentimental value he attached to the bat.
“Even if it was worth $250,000, that money doesn’t mean anything, when it comes to the memory,” Ernie Mehall said.
The trial is to continue on Wednesday before Judge Nancy Vernon.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.