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Put human trash in its place

Charles Ewry, Staff Writer

It was just after noon on a Wednesday when the Dale, Ind., town marshal, responding to a 911 call, passed through a threshold to find Roy Ward, bloody shirt on his back and knife in hand. A few feet away from Ward, lying on the floor, was 15-year-old Stacy Payne.
Her life’s blood seeping through multiple stab wounds and her clothing in disarray, Payne would be pronounced dead less than four hours later. Payne’s sister, Melissa, 14, witnessed Ward at the grizzly task and called police. She heard the screams, but perhaps even worse, she heard the screaming stop.
At the time this article was written, it was not known how Ward chose his victim or when or why. When or why will probably never be answered to satisfaction.
Maybe Ward was a murderer at heart back in 1993 when he was pleading guilty but mentally ill in Clark Superior Court to three counts of public indecency. After serving three years of probation for those offenses, he was given four more years of probation in 1996.
Public indecency is only a class A misdemeanor in Indiana, and repeat offenders are seldom taken seriously. Seven years of probation could be considered a relatively strong punishment.
In 1997, Ward was arrested on charges of public indecency and criminal recklessness after allegedly exposing himself to a woman in Floyd County and then trying to run her car off the road. An additional charge of possession of a controlled substance was later added. His probation was revoked and he was ordered to serve two years and 297 days in jail.
Ward had shown that he was capable of violent crime as well as hands-off sex crimes, but the legal system would continue to give him opportunities to turn his life around. He used those opportunities to commit more crime instead.
In December 1998, Ward exposed himself in Harrison County. While in the area, Ward also allegedly stole a woman’s purse and, using the personal information within, contacted her on the phone and tried to arrange a meeting. In Ward’s sick mind, his possession of her stolen property meant she was interested. He left the state and wouldn’t be arrested for either incident until 2001.
In 1999, Ward was convicted of second degree burglary in Missouri for breaking into a store and stealing alcohol. He was sentenced to five years but was released early on parole. Ward was continually upping the ante. And a forgiving legal system was daring him to do more.
Arrested in February of 2001 for his Harrison County offenses, Ward signed a plea agreement sentencing him to 90 actual days in jail and six months probation for harassment, a class B misdemeanor. He was also to attend and complete sex offender counseling as a result of the public indecency charge. The agreement was reached on June 21.
Ward was in Indiana to stay, living with his parents since April through a program for interstate probation transfers. The day after Ward’s plea agreement was reached, a female construction worker was filing a complaint alleging that Ward had exposed himself to her. Ward had his first meeting with his Harrison County probation officer on July 9, and two days later he was standing over Stacy Payne’s body.
We don’t need Roy Ward anymore, and we didn’t need him back in 1993. Lock him up. Kill him. Who cares? Ward’s case is another maddening example of a legal system that is weighted in the wrong direction — forgiving the criminal until the victim incurs an injury, whether emotional or physical, that will never heal.
Ward’s crimes were committed 100 percent for his own enjoyment. He wasn’t out to make money or to steal a new TV. Ward found pleasure in hurting other people. There should come a time when even a minor offense like public indecency is regarded as serious, because this kind of offender does not stop committing crimes until someone else stops him.
If the law demanded that the third time an individual exposed himself with intent to cause harm to the victim, the perpetrator would be locked up for life, I would support that. I know that anyone who repeatedly commits even a minor sex offense will very likely become bored and eventually move on to something more ambitious, like rape or murder.
The question needs to be asked: is it easier to sleep at night with guys like Roy Ward living in the same communities as our sons and daughters? Or is it easier to lock them up, throw away the key, and never know if they would have one day committed a capital crime?
Sex offender Roy Ward was given his life back by our court system. He used that opportunity to take Stacy Payne’s life away. It’s time we start putting human trash in its place.