Woman who had custody of Forks child pleads not guilty

PORT ANGELES — Michelle Ward, who had been given custody of a 2-year-old boy who died Nov. 11 of blunt-force trauma, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter-domestic violence.

The boy, Isaac Ward, was allegedly abused over two months by the woman’s mother, Ramona Ward, 45, who has been charged with second-degree murder and homicide by abuse in connection with Ward’s death.

The mother and daughter, both of whom live in Forks, are Quileute tribal members, while the boy was a tribal member and family member of Michelle Ward.

Quileute Indian Child Welfare Services had placed the child in the custody of Michelle Ward, 28.

Michelle Ward is the cousin of Isaac Ward’s mother, according to court documents.

Ward, who lived at her mother’s home, where the abuse allegedly occurred, is a trained child care provider who had completed a state Department of Social and Health Services course on mandatory reporting of abuse, according to court records that also alleged that traces of the boy’s blood were found throughout the home.

Michelle Ward said she knew of her mother’s addiction to Oxycodone and knew of two instances during which the boy had been injured while in her mother’s care and allowed her to continue caring for the boy, according to documents.

A ruling on consolidating the estimated six-week trials of the mother and daughter was delayed Friday after Ramona Ward’s lawyer, Ralph Anderson, who was not in court, was unable to consider the consolidation request by the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Clallam County Superior Court Judge Christoper Melly learned.

Melly, who presided Friday at Michelle Ward’s arraignment, set 1:30 p.m. May 19 to rule on the consolidation request.

Ramona Ward, who is in the Clallam County jail on $300,000 bail, sobbed loudly during the hearing while learning Anderson had not had the chance to respond to the request because of ill health.

Anderson, also representing Michelle Ward — who has been released on her own recognizance — and John Hayden of Clallam Public Defender, representing Ramona Ward, did not return calls for comment Monday.

Ramona Ward’s trial was set for April 10 before being reset for Sept. 11 with a six-week duration.

But that date may be changed after Superior Court Administrator Lindy Clevenger said in an April 18 letter to Hayden and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin that a court “calendar jam” was developing on Sept. 11 among the court’s three judges.

Melly is out the week of Sept. 11, Judge Brian Coughenour begins a two-month trial Aug. 28, and Judge Erik Rohrer is out the week of Sept. 18.

“Realistically, we are in a state of flux because of the amount of time it will take for everyone if we are doing two [trials],” Devlin said Friday at the court hearing.

Sheriff’s Deputy Gene Hoagland, answering a 9-1-1 call, found the boy not breathing and unresponsive Nov. 9 at Ramona Ward’s Calawah Way residence, where Michelle Ward also lived.

The boy died at Harborview Medical Center. He was remembered in December at a memorial service attended by 200 mourners.

Doctors said when he arrived at Harborview, the boy had a broken clavicle and scapula that were estimated to be up to six weeks old as well as bruising, scratches and a laceration on his head and evidence of malnutrition.

Ramona Ward told Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Knutson that she had caused the injuries, including dropping the child on his head, to “teach him a lesson.”

The day of the 9-1-1 call, Ramona Ward had shoved grabbed him by the throat twice and shoved him to the ground, and pushed him twice, causing him to hit his head on an end table and metal bed frame. court documents said.

The boy subsequently “became sluggish and, ultimately, unresponsive,” according to court documents.


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.