Weaver attorneys fear worst
- Janine Robben
- Portland Tribune - News
Ward Weaver may be arraigned today on charges of aggravated murder
Ward Weaver's attorneys expect him to be indicted for aggravated murder in the deaths of Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis of Oregon City, the attorneys told the court in recently filed documents.
An indictment had not been announced by press time Thursday. A Clackamas County grand jury began hearing witnesses in the case on Sept. 23.
However, Portland attorney Richard Wolf described the pending case against his client as a 'capital aggravated murder case' in a legal motion filed Sept. 26 on Weaver's behalf in Clackamas County Circuit Court.
Greg Horner, chief deputy district attorney for Clackamas County, said yesterday that a major announcement regarding the indictment would be made sometime this afternoon.
Horner previously has said his office would seek an indictment against Weaver for the girls' deaths but has declined to comment on specific charges. Horner also would not comment on whether his office would seek the death penalty but has said it has no deal with Weaver that would keep it from doing so.
Under Oregon law, the intentional murder of a person under the age of 14 can be charged as aggravated murder and potentially is punishable by death. Weaver also could be charged with additional counts of aggravated murder if the grand jury finds evidence to support other legal theories, such as that he murdered one or both of the girls to conceal a crime.
Wolf's motion was filed to keep the grand jury from hearing a tape recording Weaver made in jail and then gave to his criminal attorney, Tim Lyons of Oregon City. Lyons said the plan was for him to review the tape before deciding whether to give it to Weaver's daughter and sister.
Lyons, who also represents Weaver on a pending rape case, was appointed by the court to represent him on the homicide case the day after Miranda's body was found on Weaver's property. Lyons is on a list of attorneys authorized to defend death penalty cases in Clackamas County.
In the motion, Wolf argued, 'The need for strict adherence to the pre-grand jury secrecy provisions of (Oregon law) is heightened by the fact that this is a capital aggravated murder case which has garnered national public attention.' Wolf also expressed 'serious concerns' about whether Weaver would be able to find an impartial trial in Clackamas County.
Weaver, 39, has been held in the Clackamas County Jail on $1 million bail since Aug. 13 for allegedly raping his son's 19-year-old girlfriend earlier that day. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges in the rape case and publicly has denied harming Ashley, 12, and Miranda, 13.
The girls' bodies were found during an extensive search of property Weaver rented in Oregon City. Miranda's remains were found in a shed behind the house on Aug. 24 and had been there for a short period of time, maybe weeks, said Charles Mathews, special agent in charge of the Oregon FBI's office.
Mathews said Ashley's remains, found in a barrel beneath a concrete slab behind the house on Aug. 25, also appeared to have been relocated before they were buried under concrete that Weaver poured in mid-March.
Investigators still may be concerned about the whereabouts of one or both of the girls' bodies before they were found on Weaver's rented property.
In recent weeks, investigators have considered whether at least one of the missing girls' bodies was placed in a chest-style freezer in Weaver's home before being relocated on his property, a source familiar with the investigation told the Tribune. And two people who have been questioned about a key to the freezer were called as grand jury witnesses last week.
Weaver children testify
Although grand jury proceedings are secret, witnesses testifying since Sept. 23 apparently have included Weaver's children, his two ex-wives, his former landlord and an employee of the landlord.
The children are Mallori Weaver, 13, who lived with Weaver before his arrest and who knew both Ashley and Miranda; Alex Weaver, 17, who has acknowledged helping Weaver bury barrels beneath the concrete pad but denied any knowledge of Ashley's remains; and Francis Weaver, 19, who has said that his father told him he killed both girls.
The ex-wives, Maria Shaw and Kristi Sloan, have said that Weaver was violent toward them. Sloan also has told the Tribune she talked to Weaver about the concrete pad, which she said he laid shortly after Miranda disappeared on March 8, and to Francis Weaver about his knowledge of the murders.
Investigators also used a search warrant on Sept. 11 to obtain some of Weaver's keys from his former landlord, Steve Hopkins Ñ two weeks before Hopkins and his employee, Larry Olsen, testified before the grand jury.
Olsen told the Tribune Wednesday that investigators specifically were looking for a 'second key' to a freezer that Weaver had left behind when he moved most of his possessions out of the house before being arrested on Aug. 13.
Olsen said Weaver's family did not remove the freezer when they retrieved some of Weaver's possessions from the property after his arrest and that police had seized it during the same search in which the girls' bodies were discovered.
But investigators did not get the 'second key' to the freezer from Hopkins. Hopkins told the Tribune that it was not among other keys Weaver gave to his sister, Teresa Quintero, after he was arrested, and which Hopkins subsequently obtained from Quintero.
That model of freezer normally would come with only one key, according to a technical support person for the manufacturer, but additional keys could be ordered. A key for any freezer of that model also could be used to open any other freezer of the same model, said the spokesman. He described the freezer as approximately 3 feet high, 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep, with one removable basket.