Ward pleads not guilty in murder arraignment

Gary Ward (left) was arraigned in Knott County Court last Thursday on a murder charge. (Photo by Sharon K. Hall)

By SHARON K. HALL

Holding framed photos of deceased Christina Barnett, family members sat in the Knott County circuit courtroom watching intently as murder suspect Gary Ward of Wayland was escorted into the room. Several members of Barnett’s family burst out with angry statements toward Ward. At one point Knott County Circuit Judge Kim Childers silenced them before proceeding with the case.

Ward, 37, was arrested October 24 at his home for the brutal murder of the missing Johnson County woman found September 25 along Highway 80 in Knott County. He is charged with one count of murder, tampering with physical evidence, and abuse of a corpse. Ward entered a plea of not guilty.

Steve Owens, attorney for the defendant, called witnesses to the stand to vouch for Ward’s character. The first witness said he went to church with Ward and knew him since he was 17 years of age. The second witness also stated he went to church with Ward. They worked together for 1 1/2 years. The witness said Ward had been a car salesman most of his life. A schoolmate who is his neighbor in Meally testified he knew him all of his life. He stated he couldn’t see him do anything to get into trouble. The attorney asked the witnesses if they thought he would be a flight risk. Owens asked Judge Childers for reduction of the $500,000 bond.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Cameron Adams said that was a reasonable bond and he didn’t recommend reducing the bond. Judge Childers said she would take it under submission and review the matter after court.

A pretrial hearing is set for March 2014.

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