PORT ANGELES — Accused murderer Ramona Ward rejected a plea offer Wednesday in connection with the blunt-force-trauma death of a 2½-year-old boy, setting the stage for a jury trial in which her daughter has agreed to testify against her.
A status hearing for the 45-year-old Quileute tribal member is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, when Ward’s attorney, John Hayden of Clallam Public Defender, is scheduled to argue to delay Ward’s six-week trial, currently scheduled to begin Jan. 8.
She has been charged with homicide by abuse and second-degree murder-domestic violence-vulnerable victim.
Details of the proposed plea agreement were not available.
“This matter is definitely going to trial,” Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour said to end the brief hearing Wednesday.
“That’s the way we’re going to handle it.”
Ward was charged Nov. 16, 2016, in the Nov. 11, 2016, death of toddler Isaac Ward.
Isaac Ward’s custodial guardian through Quileute Indian Child Welfare Services was Michelle Ward, Ramona Ward’s daughter, who had Ramona Ward take care of Isaac while Michelle worked, according to court records.
The mother and daughter lived in the same Calawah Way mobile home in Forks where Ramona Ward allegedly abused Isaac, and where six other children, including two of Isaac’s brothers and Michelle Ward’s husband, also lived, according to court documents.
Michelle Ward, the cousin of Isaac Ward’s mother, was a Quileute tribal social services worker.
She had training in reporting child abuse, according to court records.
She avoided prosecution on a charge of second-degree manslaughter related to Isaac’s death by agreeing to testify against her mother, according to an Oct. 19 plea agreement.
The manslaughter charge against her will be dropped in exchange for her plea of 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.
Michelle Ward will avoid jail time and instead spend three to six months in a residential drug and alcohol treatment center, according to the agreement.
According to court records, Ramona Ward told Sheriff’s Detective Brian Knutson that Nov. 9, 2016, she twice squeezed Isaac around the throat and shoved him to the floor, and twice more pushed him, causing him to hit his head on an end table and the metal portion of a day bed.
While Isaac kept acting as though he wanted to be held, Ramona Ward kept pushing him away, according to court records.
Coughenour will rule at a later hearing on whether Ramona Ward’s statements to Knutson are admissible at her trial.
That hearing is expected to take a full day, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said Tuesday during the hearing.
Isaac was unresponsive when emergency personnel arrived at the home, which had visible traces of blood throughout the residence, according to court records.
Isaac was pronounced dead two days later at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He showed signs of broken bones, bruising, scratches, a head laceration and malnutrition, doctors there said.
Ward was first scheduled to stand trial Jan. 18 of this year.
Hayden did not explain in court why Ramona Ward refused to take the plea agreement.
“We just chose to do it that way,” Hayden said after the hearing.
Devlin said Tuesday she expects to call 30 to 40 witnesses for the trial.
Tonya Williams, 29, of La Push, a cousin of Isaac’s, was at the hearing Tuesday with Isaac’s grandmother, Dana Williams.
“We have to be Isaac’s voice for him,” Tonya Williams said.
Williams said she was “shocked” that Ramona Ward did not accept the plea agreement.
“She’s just digging herself a bigger hole,” Williams said.
She said she expect’s Isaac’s brothers to be called to testify.
“It’s gonna create more trauma for the kids,” Williams said.
“It’s just like ripping the Band-Aid.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].