Stefanie Silvey Investigates: Roy Lee Ward - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Stefanie Silvey Investigates: Roy Lee Ward

Reporter: Stefanie Silvey

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

Is the death penalty part of dying trend?

In 1990, Indiana prosecutors requested the death penalty in 25 cases. There were only three requests last year. The reason? The prospect of lengthy delays and the cases being overturned. The latest case being overturned involves Roy Lee Ward.

The murder of a Spencer County teenager shocked the Tri-State, and the community that convicted him received a double blow, when Ward's conviction and sentence were overturned.

Her blonde hair, blue eyes and bright smile were unforgettable. A 15-year-old so innocent, she went to bed every night with a Raggedy Ann doll.Stacy's Aunt Dianne Litkenhus says, "You squeeze it and it says 'I love you.' Julie, her mom, put that into a casket with her and sent her away with that."

Stacy's younger sister Melissa woke up that fateful day to Stacy's screams. Standing over her with a bloody knife ... Roy Lee Ward.

Dianne has questions. "Why did he do this? Take something that we valued so much and make it so meaningless that it was nothing to him to leave her laying there suffering in pain."

Litkenhus says the family started to heal after Roy Lee Ward was convicted, but then the unimaginable happened.

Clark County Prosecutor Steven Stewart asks sardonically, "You mean the Ward case? Where the Indiana Supreme Court held that those 'redneck hicks' down on the river aren't competent enough to make a decision about somebody? and they are naturally prejudice against anybody who would break into a house, and cut a 13-year-old in half - that Ward?"

Stewart is an expert on Indiana's death penalty. For the last 11 years, he's compiled a book of statistics on the subject for prosecutors across the state. He says the Roy Lee Ward case was the first in Indiana history to be overturned on the grounds of pretrial publicity and change of venue."I'm fearful that the way those north of Columbus look at us down on the Ohio River as a little less sophisticated. I hate to say it, but I think that may have played a part in the ultimate opinion. "

Ward's Defense Attorney Barbara Williams tells us, "I think I was surprised that it happened as soon as it did. But I felt very strongly from the beginning that there was good reason for this trial to be moved out of Spencer County." Williams defended Ward in his first trial. She says she tried numerous times to get a change of venue."It was a very notorious, gruesome crime and people were talking about it."

 "Would any rational person in reading the newspaper, that the police walked into this house and saw the defendant with a knife in his hand, and saw this poor girl on the floor, almost dead at that point? You are telling me that no one would have a preconceived notion of his guilt? Any rational person would. The point is, if they can set those opinions aside, and that is what the law has always held," Stewart maintains.

Litkenhus says the family had to wait a year-and-a-half for the first trial. Having to go through it a second time is too much to handle. "My concern with the Supreme Court is, is there an attempt to bypass the law of capital punishment which is on the books in Indiana, and find another way not to do capital punishment? If that's the case, we need to have some courage and convictions in what we believe, and change the law in Indiana."

Stewart says her concern is a valid one. "Struck by lightening. There's more chance of being struck by lightening than being sentenced to death. It's now politically popular for a politician to come out and say that I'm against the death penalty, and that is something that we haven't seen since the 1960's."

He says that won't change unless the public gets educated and puts legislators into office who aren't swayed by anti death penalty lobbyists. "In a case like this, where the evidence is so overwhelming and the defense admits their actions led to the death, it sure doesn't seem like the community and the victim's family should have to suffer through another trial."

No new trial date has been set in the case of Roy Lee Ward, and it hasn't been decided if the trial will be moved out of Spencer County, or if a jury will be brought in from another county.

Thursday on Newswatch at 10:00, it's probably the most infamous murder case in the Tri-State: Donald Ray Wallace. Convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of a Vanderburgh County family during a burglary 24 years ago. Wallace remains on death row.

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