Clallam County corrections deputy Alicia Newhouse helps Ramona Ward to her seat during a hearing in Port Angeles on Monday. (Rob Ollikainen/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam County corrections deputy Alicia Newhouse helps Ramona Ward to her seat during a hearing in Port Angeles on Monday. (Rob Ollikainen/Peninsula Daily News)

$300,000 bail set for Forks woman accused in toddler’s death

PORT ANGELES — Bail was set at $300,000 Monday for a Forks woman accused of killing a 2-year-old boy who was in her care.

Ramona Jean Ward, 44, is facing possible charges of homicide by abuse or second-degree murder for injuries she allegedly inflicted on a toddler who died Friday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Clallam County prosecutors said.

Ward phoned 9-1-1 from her residence on the 1700 block of Calawah Way to report that the boy was unresponsive on Wednesday, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office said.

Medical staff at Forks Community Hospital and Harborview identified injuries consistent with a pattern of abuse and neglect, investigators said.

An autopsy was conducted Monday, Chief Criminal Sheriff’s Deputy Brian King said.

The Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is expected to file a formal charge at Ward’s next court appearance at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Michele Devlin, Clallam County chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, requested a $500,000 bail for Ward based on a community safety risk and Ward’s history of missing court appearances.

“The 27-month-old baby that was in her care was subjected to, as a doctor explained, torture, for a period of a couple of months,” Devlin told Clallam County Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer.

“Ms. Ward … indicated that she did such things as hold the baby up by his feet and drop him on his head. She also indicated that she threw him against the wall. There was blood all over the house,” Devlin said.

“This child was systematically abused for a period of months in her care,” added Devlin. “He was obviously a human being that got in her way, and she had to take care of the problem.”

Devlin noted that there were six other children in Ward’s care when the alleged crimes occurred. No other victims of physical abuse have been identified.

Investigators said the boy who died was related to Ward but was not her son.

The exact relationship had not been confirmed by the Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s a very, very tricky family tree,” King said Monday. “It’s really kind of a guess at this point for us.”

King has said the only motive in the case was “indifference to the baby’s life.”

Defense attorney Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender argued for a lower bail, saying Ward had no violent criminal history.

“We’re not talking about somebody running the streets looking for people to assault,” Gasnick said.

While the allegations have a “tragic component,” Gasnick suggested that his client is not a flight risk and that she has cooperated with authorities.

Devlin countered that Ward took out her anger on a 2-year-old child and poses a threat to others.

“I think both sides make some good points, but when I look at the charges, what the allegations are and the history of appearances in court, I do think there needs to be substantial bail,” Rohrer said.

“I’m going to set bail at $300,000, which is less than sought, but I think adequate under the circumstances.”

Rohrer denied a defense motion to amend Ward’s conditions of release from no contact with children to no unsupervised contact with children.

Devlin had argued that Ward was in a home with two other adults when the alleged crimes occurred.

“I’m going to adopt the state’s recommendation at this point,” Rohrer said.

“I could be persuaded otherwise if there was supervised visitation with someone that the court approved, or someone the court is familiar with, potentially, but not today.”

Rohrer also denied a defense motion to release Ward from shackles.

Ward appeared in court wearing shackles and an orange, jail-issue uniform.

She did not address the court other than to say she understood her rights.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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