Michelle Ward plea deal set in death of toddler

PORT ANGELES — A former Quileute tribe social services worker will avoid prosecution and potential jail time on a second-degree manslaughter charge involving the Nov. 11, 2016, child-abuse death of a 2-year-old Quileute boy under a plea agreement reached in Clallam County Superior Court.

As part of the Oct. 19 accord, Michelle Ann Ward, 28, of Forks will testify against her mother, accused murderer Ramona Jean Ward, 45, of Forks, at Ramona Ward’s Jan. 8 second-degree-murder-domestic violence trial, scheduled to last six weeks.

Michelle Ward’s manslaughter charge will be dropped, and she will plead guilty to second-degree criminal mistreatment and to solicitation to deliver a controlled substance, oxycodone, to her mother, who is addicted to the drug, according to court records.

Ramona Ward is also charged with homicide by abuse.

According to the plea agreement, her daughter will spend three to six months in a residential drug and alcohol treatment center followed by 24 months of probation and receive no prison time for drug solicitation.

The maximum prison time for her manslaughter-domestic violence charge is up to 10 years, and for drug solicitation, five years.

If she does not fulfill the agreement, she could be sentenced to 21 to 26 months.

Ramona Ward’s case-status hearing Friday was rescheduled for this Friday. Ward’s lawyer, John Hayden of Port Angeles, could not be present at the Friday hearing, Judge Brian Coughenour said.

Hayden did not return calls for comment last week on the Ramona Ward case.

Isaac Ward’s grandmother Dana Williams, his cousin Tonya Williams and Dana Williams’ friend Nora Eastman were at the hearing Friday.

They criticized Michelle Ward’s plea deal.

“I don’t think she should be offered a deal,” Dana Williams said Friday after the hearing.

“Isaac wasn’t given half a chance that Michelle was given.”

Quileute Indian Child Welfare Services gave Michelle Ward custody of Isaac in May 2016.

Ward, a cousin of Isaac Ward’s mother, lived at a 1,328-square-foot Calawah Way double-wide mobile home with her mother, her husband and seven children including Isaac, his brothers and four children of her own, according to court records.

Michelle Ward had her mother take care of Isaac at the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home while Michelle worked, according to court records.

Emergency personnel found Isaac Ward unresponsive and not breathing Nov. 9, 2016, in the Wards’ home after Ramona Ward call 9-1-1, according to court records.

“She had been physically abusing [Isaac Ward] for about two months because she was frustrated with [Isaac Ward],” according to the Nov. 11, 2016, Sheriff’s Office arrest report for Ramona Ward.

According to the arrest report for Michelle Ward, Ramona estimated she had been abusing the child once every four days over two months.

Harborview Medical Center doctors said the toddler was injured from his head to his feet, from bruising on his forehead and a brain that was bleeding to scars on his abdomen, to a scar on his ankle, according to court records.

There also was evidence of malnutrition, the doctors said.

Michelle Ward had been working for Quileute social services, her lawyer, Ralph Anderson of Port Angeles, said Friday.

He said she was suspended after she was charged March 17 with second-degree manslaughter.

Information on Ward’s employment status with the tribe was unavailable from tribal officials Friday afternoon.

Michelle Ward had received training to be a child care provider and in 2014 completed a course on mandated reporter training, according to her probable-cause statement.

The course educates participants in identifying child abuse and neglect on reporting their concerns, the statement said.

She also had certificates of completion for courses related to early childhood development.

Authorities found visible traces of blood in various forms, including spatter, transfer and seepage, throughout the Calawah Way home, according to the statement.

Isaac Ward died of blunt force trauma to the head, according to an autopsy.

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 the probable-cause statement.

Anderson said “we never discussed” how Michelle Ward did not see the evidence of blood throughout the house that was referred to by authorities.

“She had a sense of regret or remorse,” he said. “Looking in hindsight, she probably should have seen what was there to be seen.”

Anderson would not discuss the specifics of the charges against Michelle Ward.

“You have a role as a parent and a role as a person who is a designated reporter,” Anderson said.

“She accepted that she should have been better about reporting.”

There was no evidence that his client caused any of the injuries that led to Isaac’s death, Anderson said in an earlier interview.

Michelle Ward told authorities that her mother had physically abused her and threatened to commit suicide with a knife while Michelle’s son was with her.

She would supply her mother with oxycodone, parceling it out so her mother would not overuse it, according to court records.

Michelle Ward will undergo treatment for oxycodone use as part of the plea agreement, Anderson said.

“The words she used was, she had a problem,” he added.

If asked by a counselor what her drug of choice was, “she said, ‘I would say I have a problem with Oxy,’ ” Anderson said of a discussion he had with her.

Anderson said Friday that he recently observed Michelle Ward being interviewed by authorities about the last six months of Isaac Ward’s life while he lived at the Calawah Way home.

She said in the interview with authorities that “poor Isaac pretty much sat and watched TV and was not a bother to anyone,” Anderson said.

“There were clearly mental and physical issues that were prior to Michelle having any contact with Isaac,” he added.

“He would laugh and giggle and very little else.

“He was unresponsive, and he ended up as a target for all this abuse.”

Ramona Ward, who pleaded not guilty after admitting, according to court records, that she committed the abuse, remained in the Clallam County jail Saturday on $300,000 bail.


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

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