Family Feud Over Trust for Sandy Hook Victim

Noah Pozner's mother is in a battle with her own brother over control of a trust set up days after the shooting.

By Monica Buchanan
|  Tuesday, May 14, 2013  |  Updated 9:29 AM EDT
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In the months since the Newtown shooting, Veronique Pozner and her husband, Lenny, say they've finally found their voice again after spending weeks in a fog of grief and sadness.  Yet, they have now found themselves in the midst of what Veronique calls another tragedy.

In the months since the Newtown shooting, Veronique Pozner and her husband, Lenny, say they've finally found their voice again after spending weeks in a fog of grief and sadness. Yet, they have now found themselves in the midst of what Veronique calls another tragedy.

Noah's little face is always the last thing Veronique Pozner sees before she goes to sleep.

"You know he always used to cuddle between us in bed when he had a nightmare, so this blanket just keeps him alive," Pozner recalled.

It's often a struggle to get through the day knowing she will never watch him grow up; never give him another hug; never see him with his twin sister, Arielle, again.  Pozner says it's the thoughtful gifts from complete stranger that make the day a little easier.

"They couldn't give us what they wanted to give us, which was our little boy back.  So they gave us what they could," Pozner said.

In the months since Noah was killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School, Pozner and her husband, Lenny, say they've finally found their voice again after spending weeks in a fog of grief and sadness.  Yet, they have now found themselves in the midst of what Veronique calls another tragedy.

"We're looking to claim what's rightfully ours," she said.

Days after the shooting, Pozner's brother, Alexis Haller, reached out to his sister from his home in Seattle, offering to set up a trust for Noah's four surviving siblings ages 6, 9, 18 and 19 years old.  At a time of immeasurable grief, Pozner says she was happy to have his help.

"It was fairly soon into it, maybe 2 or 3 weeks that I started having concerns about things that were going on," Pozner remembered.

Pozner says she found out all the mementos, letters and gifts from complete strangers weren't coming to her.

"They thing that was causing me the most pain was the fact that there was a post office box in San Francisco, as well as a UPS box in Newtown.  Everything was being delivered to the P.O. boxes and then packed and shipped to Washington state, sight unseen by any of us.  We had to hire an attorney to get that material back," Pozner said.

She says what they received months later were dozens of opened letters and gifts that were not in their original condition.

"The fact that correspondence like that went to eyes other than us, as Noah's parents, is unconscionable to me.  The fact that someone would open and read those letters, or maybe discard some of them...I'll never know if I got everything back," she said.

Haller, though, says all correspondence were forwarded back to his sister and that she was aware he had opened many cards to check for donations.

Now, Pozner is fighting to regain control of Noah's trust.  She says Haller, an attorney himself, appointed himself trustee when he started it.  He has since refused to turn control over to the two people Pozner and her husband want named as trustees.

"We feel there ought to be two trustees.  That's how you get that checks and balances.  He names himself the only one," said Pozner.

Haller released a statement to NBC Connecticut saying in part, "At my sister's behest, I agreed to serve as trustee for a trust set up to benefit Noah's four surviving siblings and helped raise money for that trust.  In short, I devoted hundreds of hours to doing whatever I could, as best I could.  More recently, my sister and her second husband have been pressing me to appoint their personal friends as trustees for the trust...However my sister's own two adult children, who are trust beneficiaries, do not agree with the appointment of these individuals as trustees."  He goes on to say, "to resolve this sad conflict, but without abandoning my fiduciary obligations as trustee to all the surviving siblings, I have proposed a range of reasonable alternatives, including meeting with a judge to find a solution, transferring the trust to a professional trustee, and splitting the trust among Noah's four surviving siblings.  My sister and her husband have rejected all of these options."

Because of the dispute, Haller says none of the money has gone to any of the children. All of the donations received are sitting in the account untouched, he said.

"I don't have any reason to believe any funds are going to be misappropriated.  I think what we are looking for is for us to get ownership back, empowerment back.  This was our story, he was our son," Pozner maintained.

Even more infuriating for Pozner was Haller speaking about Noah in a TV story that aired in Seattle on the one month anniversary of Noah's murder.

"They actually didn't know Noah very well at all.  They didn't know what he likes, what he didn't like and they started speaking to that immediately," she said.

Haller says that Pozner asked that he stopped speaking on her behalf, he has abided by her wishes, but says he will continue to share his thoughts on the shooting and issues like gun control.

Haller and Pozner's mother also issues a statement to the Troubleshooters supporting her son's actions saying she is "deeply saddened by her daughter's accusations."  Pozner's oldest son, Michael, also released a statement supporting his uncle's actions.

"We are the parents and we're the guardians and I'm still taking care of my children," Pozner responded.

Pozner says Haller's repeated refusals to abide by her requests have added another layer of pain to a tragedy she admits she'll never get over.

"I want him to honor what we are asking, what we need," Pozner said.

It's a mother's plea for control of her son's memory.

"This is our story and in my opinion they should thank God every day that this is not their story," she said.

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