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Man Gets Life for Murdering 2 Girls

He is spared the death penalty. His daughter's friends' bodies were found buried on his property in Oregon.

September 23, 2004|From Associated Press

OREGON CITY, Ore. — A man accused of killing two of his daughter's friends, then hiding their bodies on his property, pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated murder and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison.

The plea deal, supported by the victims' families, spared 41-year-old Ward Weaver a possible death sentence.

"You will leave here with your life today, such as it may be," Judge Robert Herndon told him.

The sentence carried no possibility of parole.

Weaver sat with his head bowed during most of the session, his hands shackled. He spoke only when asked direct questions by the judge. He made no statement.

Weaver pleaded guilty to seven of 17 charges, including aggravated murder, sex abuse and abuse of a corpse. He entered no contest pleas to the remaining 10 counts, which included rape of another young family friend.

But the judge 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 riveted Oregonians and prompted changes in the state's child welfare system, which critics said botched early signs that Weaver was abusing young girls.

In January 2002, 12-year-old Ashley Pond disappeared. She was a friend and neighbor of Weaver's daughter.

Two months later, another of the daughter's friends and middle-school classmates, Miranda Gaddis, 13, also disappeared, touching off a nationwide FBI search.

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

Weaver was arrested in August 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 searched for the bodies and found Ashley's in a barrel under the concrete slab, and Miranda's in a box in Weaver's tool shed.

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