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DOCTOR'S COMMON-LAW WIFE CHARGED WITH FORGERY OF HIS WILL

A woman described as the common-law wife of a prominent Wellsville doctor who died last year surrendered Wednesday to State Police to face charges of forging his will.

Mary J. Colletta, 43, of Riverside Drive, Wellsville, was charged with seven felony counts of forgery. Following arraignment in Wellsville Town Court, she was released on her own recognizance until a future, unscheduled court appearance.

Two former colleagues of the late Dr. Andrew Colletta previously were charged with forgery. "They were witnesses to this will . . . created by Mary," said State Police Investigator William S. Fish.

The witnesses signed the will after Colletta's death. Those colleagues were identified as Dr. Kenneth Berry, 41, former director of the emergency room at Jones Memorial Hospital, and Cathy Litzburg, 48, of Madison Street, Wellsville, who had worked for Colletta.

A third person who served as a witness is cooperating with police and hasn't been charged, the investigator said.

Neither Berry nor Litzburg were named as beneficiaries in that will, according to Fish.

Colletta died of natural causes in May 1998 at age 46. His death was investigated, Fish said.

The will in question was filed for probate in Allegany County Court in August 1998, Fish said. Associated suspect documents also have been filed.

The allegations against Mary Colletta stem from her attempt to gain sole possession of the estate, Fish said. The value of that estate has not been disclosed, but Fish noted that Colletta had owned two houses in the area -- one of them in an affluent neighborhood.

Further complicating the matter is the existence of another Colletta widow who lives downstate, the investigator said. It appears that while the doctor and Mary Colletta apparently never legally married, the doctor and Carol Colletta never divorced.

It's believed the divorce wasn't finalized, Fish said. Carol Colletta has made a claim on the estate.

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