Guilty plea issued in boy’s death: Caretaker to be sentenced for homicide by abuse

PORT ANGELES — A Quileute tribal member sobbed quietly Tuesday as she pleaded guilty to homicide by abuse for killing a 2½-year-old family member in November 2016.

Ramona Jean Ward, 46, of Forks could be sentenced to 20 to 26½ years when Superior Court Judge Christopher Melly decides her prison term June 4 — the same day Ward was to begin a six-day trial with testimony scheduled against her by her daughter, Michelle Ann Ward, 29.

A charge of second-degree murder-domestic violence against Ramona Ward was dismissed in return for Ramona Ward’s guilty plea to homicide by abuse-domestic violence with special allegations involving a vulnerable victim and a position of trust.

Isaac was the 2½-year-old son of her daughter Michelle’s cousin, a boy described in court documents as primarily using grunts and gestures to communicate. Michelle had put the boy under her mother’s care while she worked.

Isaac, who would have had his fourth birthday May 18, was found unresponsive Nov. 9, 2016, at Ramona Ward’s three-bedroom Calawah Way mobile home, where seven children and three adults lived, including Ramona Ward and Michelle Ward.

An autopsy determined Isaac died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Michelle Ward, a former Quileute tribe social services worker, had custody of Isaac under authority from Quileute Indian Child Welfare Services.

She avoided prosecution and potential jail time on a second-degree manslaughter charge under a plea agreement with the prosecuting attorney’s office.

She agreed to testify against her mother in return for pleading guilty to second-degree criminal mistreatment and to solicitation to deliver a controlled substance, oxycodone, to her mother, who told authorities she had an “extreme addiction” to the drug.

Michelle Ward, who has a May 31 status hearing, will be sentenced after her mother is sentenced.

Michelle Ward could spend three to six months in a residential drug and alcohol treatment center followed by 24 months of probation, and receive no prison time.

Authorities found visible traces of blood in various forms throughout the Calawah Way home where the mother and daughter lived.

Michelle Ward said she never saw her mother abuse Isaac and that “when she would return home from a long day she would go straight to her bedroom without seeing any of the other children,” according to court records.

After Ramona Ward called 9-1-1 to report Isaac as unresponsive Nov. 9, 2016, he was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center and pronounced dead two days later.

When Isaac was found at about 2:30 p.m. Nov. 9 by a sheriff’s deputy and examined by emergency response and West End medical personnel, the boy had sores and scratches all over his body, authorities said.

The boy had a distended stomach, a low blood count, a forehead bruise, multiple head sores, scratches inside his ears, facial and neck scratches, and “scars all over his body,” according to court records.

A doctor with the Child Protection Team at Seattle Children’s hospital described his injuries as “evidence of ‘torture’ over a period of time.”

The doctor said Isaac had bleeding in his eyes consistent with severe head trauma and swelling in his brain.

Ramona Ward said she had been physically abusing the boy about once every four days for about two months because she was frustrated with him.

She said she considered Isaac one of her grandchildren.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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