Aaron Goodwin

Jul 15, 2015 7:25 PM

Gag order, anonymous smear letter, all related to former Portmouth police sergeant


PORTSMOUTH - A police commissioner is fighting back after someone sent an anonymous letter to city officials and a local newspaper, claiming she torched her ex-boyfriend's car during a domestic dispute close to 20 years ago.

Brenna Cavanaugh, who was elected to the commission after former Sergeant Aaron Goodwin inherited a $2.7 million estate from a 93-year-old Portsmouth woman with dementia, said on Wednesday the fight is not over.

"Whoever wrote (the letter) was cowardly, and they're ashamed of the content they put in there because they know it's false," Cavanaugh told NH1 News.

The letter's allegations were based upon an arson investigation, where Cavanaugh was called by police because of the car fire. No charges were ever filed against her.

Because of the allegations, Cavanaugh will have to undergo an investigation by police officials, but the outspoken commissioner is not afraid of the truth.

"The good guys will win. The bad guys will be flushed out," Cavanaugh said. "It's certainly not going to silence me. It's not going to stop the commission from proceeding forward with important commission business."

Cavanaugh added that a majority of the men and women who work for the Portsmouth Police Department have the best interest of the community at heart.

The story of Goodwin and the late Geraldine Webber shocked the community because of the nature of his conduct. Goodwin was fired last month after it was determined he violated the department's regulations and the city's code of ethics.

Goodwin visited Webber at her home over a hundred times prior to her death.

Meanwhile, Webber's neighbor, John Connors, has filed suit in federal court, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated when he was issued what amounts to a "permanent gag order."

Connors, a retired police officer, who still works traffic details on occasions, spoke to a local newspaper reporter last year about the estate case. After the interview was published, he was reprimanded and told he had violated the department's media policies.

In the interview, Connors referred to Goodwin's behavior, saying, "I wasn't being nosy...I was watching a crime as far as I am concerned."

Paul McEachern is the attorney Connors has hired.

"He learned this information as a citizen and as a next door neighbor," McEachern told NH1 News Wednesday. "He gave his honest account and if free speech doesn't include that, we will find out in court."

McEachern said Connors tried to alert those in charge at the police department when he started to witness Goodwin's frequent visits to Webber's house. When Webber told him that she was going to marry the cop, who was in his 30's, Connors tried to explain to her that wouldn't happen.

According to the lawsuit, Connors spoke with Webber's attorney James Ritzo, who told him that her will could not be changed because she was no longer mentally competent.

A probate judge is still trying to decide if Webber was competent at the time she changed her will, seven months before her death. During a trial on the matter earlier this year, Goodwin said he saw Webber as a woman taking care of her house during her twilight years, and described their relationship as similar to that of mother and son.

Follow Kimberley Haas on Twitter @KHaasNH1.


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