serial killers by name [w] amazon
  WEAVER Ward F. jr.   USA ... ... ... 2
  ... ... OR
Ward Weaver, the Oregon City man accused of killing two of his daughter's friends, then hiding their bodies on his property, pleaded guilty September 2004 to aggravated murder and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison.

The plea deal, supported by the families of victims Ashley Pond, 12, and Miranda Gaddis, 13, spared the 41-year-old Weaver a possible death sentence.

"You will leave here with your life today, such as it may be," Judge Robert Herndon told Weaver at the sentencing, adding, "I see nothing but evil. I hope there is a special place in hell for people like you."

Weaver, dressed in a black-and-white-striped jail uniform, sat with his head bowed during most of the session, his hands shackled together. He spoke in a hoarse whisper, and then only when asked direct questions by the judge. He made no statement.

Weaver pleaded guilty to seven of the 17 charges he was facing, including aggravated murder, sex abuse and abuse of a corpse. He entered "no contest" pleas to the remaining 10, which included rape of yet another friend of his daughter.

Such pleas mean that he tacitly acknowledged that the state had enough evidence to convict him on those 10 counts, but wanted to reserve the right to appeal.

But Herndon found him guilty on all 17 counts, based on statements by the prosecutors that they had enough evidence to support all charges.

The plea brought an end to a case that has riveted Oregonians and prompted changes in the state's child welfare system, which critics said botched early signs that Weaver was abusing young girls.

The Weaver case opened with the disappearance on a blustery morning in January, 2002, of Ashley, a friend and neighbor of Mallori Weaver, Ward Weaver's daughter.

Two months later, another of Mallori Weaver's friends and middle school classmates, Miranda Gaddis, also disappeared, touching off a nationwide FBI search that brought tips from as far as Florida.

Investigators focused on Weaver, whose modest rental home was just steps from the school bus stop where both girls were last seen. He responded by inviting television crews into his home to film him proclaiming his innocence, giving interviews on top of the concrete slab in his back yard under which investigators later found Ashley Pond's body.

Weaver was arrested on Aug. 13, 2002, after his son's girlfriend ran from his home, naked except for a tarp, screaming that Weaver had tried to rape her.

FBI investigators then cordoned off his back yard and searched for the bodies. They found Ashley's in a barrel under the concrete slab, and Miranda's in a box in Weaver's tool shed.

On Wednesday, the mothers of the two girls wept in court, leaning for support on the shoulders of friends and family members.

Addressing the court in an emotional statement, Lori Pond broke down in tears, saying, "I know I have the memory of my daughter for the rest of my life. That cannot ever be taken away."

Weaver did not make eye contact with her as she continued, "I just know that I am going to live, continue on. I may have to do this without my daughter, but I have other children I need to be strong for. I really don't have much more to say, except to thank you for justice."

Weaver showed the most emotion when members of the two families referred to his own daughter, as when a friend read a statement on behalf of Miranda Gaddis' mother, which said, "What makes you think you'll get to talk to your child, if she is even willing to talk to you? When I want to visit with Miranda, I have to go to a gravesite."

After the hearing, Lori Pond said her daughter would have wanted the plea bargain to save family members, and Mallori Weaver, from a difficult trial.

Michael Barker, one of Weaver's lawyers, said a letter to Weaver from Mallori convinced him to make the plea deal.

"His daughter wrote him a poignant letter, and expressed enormous pain," Barker said. "She said "Daddy, make it stop." That is when Mr. Weaver changed his mind, and said I am putting an end to this."

Since his arrest, Weaver has shuttled between the Clackamas County Jail and the Oregon State Hospital, proclaiming his innocence while psychiatrists evaluated his mental fitness to stand trial. Earlier this summer, Judge Herndon found that Weaver was fit for trial.

Weaver's father, also named Ward Weaver, sits on death row in California. He too was convicted of murdering a woman and burying her in his back yard under concrete.

Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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