When the body of Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner was discovered in March 2017, his family was left with a jumble of questions – ones that only began to get untangled in a B.C. Supreme Court decision Feb. 26.
Perhaps the most confused was his wife, Sabrina Widner, who was shocked to discover her husband had been leading a double-life with another woman and two children for the last eight years. When she thought he was working part of the week on the other side of Vancouver Island, Widner was in fact living with his second family.
Sara Boughton, who had a “marriage-like relationship” with Widner, knew he was married when they met in 2009 but believed he was unhappy and trying to leave his wife. So, when Widner died in 2017 without a will, she determined she had just as much right to his estate as his wife.
What ensued was a nearly three-year B.C. Supreme Court battle. Sabrina claimed she was the primary contributor on multiple Sooke properties owned by her and Widner and said considering Boughton a second spouse would constitute polygamy, which is criminally prohibited. Boughton argued Widner was almost entirely responsible for the acquisition of the properties in question and, as his long-term partner, she deserved a piece of them.
“He left a complicated legacy,” Justice Jennifer Duncan wrote in her decision.
Every family member who testified had a different understanding and knew a different amount about the life Widner led, including his duplicity, criminal dealings and association with the Hells Angels.
Both Widner’s parents, who are separated, said they were aware of their son’s double-life and spent time with both partners and both sets of grandkids. They were also aware of his involvement with the Hells Angels, but neither felt it was their place to tell Widner’s wife.
Widner’s mother, Reta Acorn, added that she believed her son was a “high-level cocaine dealer,” washed other people’s money and, on top of his legal marijuana grow operation on Tugwell Road, had another illegal operation at his second property on Eaglecrest Drive. She believed the two properties were purchased with drug money.
|Michael Widner led a double-life with two separate families before his death in March 2017. (Mike Widner Memorial Page/Facebook)|
Other family members listed a number of jobs they said Widner was working, including operating fishing charters, a small moving company, a wastewater management company and an ICBC salvage and rebuild shop. But with tax returns reflecting next to no income, it appears Widner was working for cash. He gave his wife cash for groceries and household expenses and provided Boughton with approximately $8,000 a month to cover all her expenses.
Sabrina claims she had no idea about her husband’s involvement with the Hells Angels or any kind of criminal activity. She said Widner had a motorcycle when their daughter was born but he got rid of it after a psychic told them he would die on one. Following his death though, she discovered her husband had two motorcycles at the home he shared with Boughton in Shawnigan Lake.
She also contested the claim that their two properties were purchased with drug money. She purchased their Tugwell property in 2004 and registered a mortgage under her name. Over the next three years, she made five lump-sum payments – four of $44,000 and one of $22,000 – one of which she said was a gift from Widner’s family and the rest of which she couldn’t recall where the money came from. Given her full-time income at the time was $25,000, Duncan determined it was unlikely she made all those payments herself.
Duncan did decide that Sabrina was the primary contributor of the Eaglecrest property, which was also registered under her name and where she made monthly mortgage payments.
Between the contributions Duncan thought Widner likely made to the Tugwell property and a workshop he had built there, she determined his estate consisted of his personal property and $150,000 plus interest. She also decided because Boughton and Widner weren’t actually married, that relationship could not be considered polygamous under criminal law. But, Boughton and Widner’s relationship was “marriage-like” enough that Duncan said Widner’s estate should be divided equally between his two partners.
Sabrina plans to challenge the validity of Boughton’s claim as a spouse in court at a later date.
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