BELFAST, Maine — A man accused of robbing, kidnapping and attempting to murder a Belfast woman last fall pleaded guilty to all charges Tuesday afternoon in Waldo County Superior Court.
Stanley L. Ward, 22, of Belfast will be sentenced for the crimes before the end of May, according to Maine Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, who presided over the hearing. Each charge is a Class A crime, which carries a maximum prison term of 30 years and a maximum fine of $50,000.
By pleading guilty during the hearing, Ward waived his right to a jury trial.
The accused, a bearded, heavy-set man wearing the blue uniform of Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset — where he has been incarcerated since the assault with bail set at $500,000 — sat next to his court-appointed attorney and listened quietly as the Waldo County deputy district attorney described what happened on the afternoon and night of Nov. 24, 2009.
His 72-year-old victim was in the courtroom Tuesday, flanked by family, neighbors and friends. It was the first time she had seen Ward — the son of the man who mowed her lawn — since he left her for dead in a camper on a dirt road in Knox, according to one of her neighbors.
The victim told the Bangor Daily News later Tuesday that she has been recuperating and that after one more surgery she will be “back to normal.”
“Belfast is not a dangerous place,” the white-haired woman said. “This was a very, very terrible event — but it wasn’t Belfast. I really love Maine, and Belfast is a wonderful place, and I love my home. None of this changed that for me. He was just a really bad person.”
The BDN typically does not name victims and is not identifying the woman.
Based on police reports and interviews with the victim and defendant, Deputy District Attorney Eric Walker gave a summary of the case the state would have made against Ward if he had not pleaded guilty to the charges.
For the woman, the nightmarish events began just after 4:30 p.m., when Ward went to her Bell Street home and told her that his father had suffered a massive stroke and was in the hospital, Walker told the court.
She let him into her house to ask how she could help and he told her that he needed money as he had been fired from two jobs.
According to Walker, Ward actually had decided two days earlier to carry out a robbery. His first intended victim was an elderly Northport woman, but after she left her home for Thanksgiving, he settled on the Belfast woman as a second choice, bringing a knife and duct tape with him.
When the victim told Ward she would find some yardwork for him to do, the young man became “upset,” Walker said, and dragged her into the bathroom, pushed her to the floor, held the knife to her throat and demanded money.
The woman gave him all the money she could find in the house, and then he bound her hands behind her back with the duct tape, Walker said. Ward then picked her up by her arms, which caused her first injury, a damaged tendon in her shoulder. Ward then forced her into her car, the attorney said.
“He told her that if she made a scream or a noise, he would kill her that very minute,” Walker said.
A terrifying ride around Belfast continued “for some time,” the attorney said. When Ward demanded more money, the victim offered to write him a check, but she had left her checkbook at the house. They returned to her home and she wrote him a check for $300.
Ward then put her back in her car and began driving out of town, past Belfast Variety and out to Route 137. She recited the Lord’s Prayer during the drive, Walker said.
Ward stopped the car by a camper on a dirt lane near Dutton Pond off Route 137 in Knox.
“At this point, he slammed her onto her knees in the camper,” Walker said.
Although she told Ward that she liked to help people, not hurt them, he sliced her throat and asked her whether she was “bleeding good yet,” Walker said.
Ward apparently left the trailer, but then returned, asking her whether she was dead yet. He then cut her throat twice more, and beat her on the head with a hard object until she thought she heard her skull crack, Walker said.
“She fell to the floor, and heard Stanley Ward say, ‘Well, you’re dead now,’” Walker said.
The woman passed out but returned to consciousness sometime later, and eventually walked and crawled toward Route 137.
At one point she heard a vehicle coming and rolled into a ditch filled with water, noticing that the vehicle was a truck that resembled Ward’s. She hid in the ditch and watched the truck turn into the driveway and saw a man get out and step inside the camper.
The man was Ward, Walker said. He had returned her car to her house and retrieved his truck from where he had parked it nearby. He then headed back to the camper, where he was surprised to find her gone.
“He left her to die in a camper,” Walker said.
Meanwhile, the woman made it to Route 137, where she was found by John MacDonald, who was driving by, Walker said.
“He stopped when he saw what he thought was an animal on the side of the road covered in blood, that perhaps had been hit by a car,” Walker said. “He discovered it wasn’t an animal. It was [the victim].”
She was able to tell Dr. John Gage at Waldo County General Hospital’s emergency room and then Belfast Detective Michael McFadden what had happened, identifying Stanley Ward as her attacker, Walker said.
After Ward lost the woman, he went to a friend’s house, where he smoked pot and drank alcohol with others, Walker said.
“He did not tell them what he had done that night,” Walker said.
When police found him at 4:30 a.m. Nov. 25 at his home, Ward spoke with officers “at length” about what had happened. He even took them to the scenes and re-created what had happened, basically playing the role of the victim, Walker said.
Ward apparently told officers that he had been having financial difficulties and was worried about making a truck payment, according to the attorney.
After Walker’s summation of the state’s case, Ward’s attorney said that his client disputed only a few minor details.
Justice Hjelm asked Ward whether he was pleading guilty of his own free will, if he understood what the plea would mean and whether he was in his right mind during the hearing.
“Yeah,” Ward said, giving monosyllabic responses to most questions.
Before adjourning, Hjelm revoked Ward’s bail.
After the hearing, neighbor Margot Carpenter said that the victim is an “amazing, strong woman.”
“I’m very impressed by her ability to hang in there and survive such an impossible event,” Carpenter said.
Some of Ward’s family also were in attendance, including his aunt, Lynn Warman of Unity.
“We’re really sorry about what happened,” she said. “I can’t imagine someone in the family doing that.”