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Hartselle Enquirer

Sheriff: Hartselle man held woman captive for three days 

By David Gambino  

For the Enquirer  

 

A Hartselle man charged with locking a woman in a shed for three days, sexually assaulting her and fracturing her skull had his bond set at $52,500 on Friday despite the prosecutor’s request that he be held without bond, or with at least a $200,000 bond. 

Christopher Lee Ward, 51, is charged with first-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault. After a hearing Friday, District Judge Brent Craig ordered that if Ward makes bond, he is prohibited from making contact with the victim and must wear an ankle monitor. 

In his order, Craig said the bond amount was appropriate because Ward had no history of violent felony convictions. Ward remained in the Morgan County Jail on Monday, according to jail records.  

The only witness called at Friday’s hearing was Morgan County sheriff’s Investigator Erica Delgado. Direct examination was by Assistant District Attorney Garrick Vickery and cross-examination by defense lawyer Griff Belser. 

Ward attended the hearing in a striped uniform and shackles. He sat in the front row of the courtroom as Delgado testified. 

Delgado said Ward kept the victim in a padlocked shed where he lives, behind his mother’s house, and beat her over the course of three days. She suffered a skull fracture, broken ribs, and nose and eye socket injuries, according to Delgado. 

Ward shook his head as Vickery showed a cellphone photograph of the victim’s injuries to the judge. 

According to court records, Ward resides at the 2200 block of Pinehurst Street Southwest in Hartselle. 

In an affidavit filed in Morgan County District Court on June 12, Delgado said investigators met with the victim on June 7 — after the victim underwent treatment at Vanderbilt Hospital for her injuries — to obtain statements for reports filed on May 3 alleging sexual assault and May 29 for assault. 

The first report alleges that, on her second day staying at Ward’s residence, the victim tried to calm Ward after he became paranoid following a “shot of dope.” Ward responded by striking the victim twice in the face, according to the affidavit. 

The statement alleges Ward then used his body weight to restrain the victim and sexually assault her. According to court records, Ward is 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs 280 pounds. 

The victim “just remembers screaming and crying and banging on the side of the trailer in hopes that someone could hear her,” according to Delgado’s affidavit. “She then began praying out loud.” 

After “a few days had passed,” the victim, having no other transportation options, asked Ward for a ride to a doctor’s appointment, according to the affidavit, and he took her. 

Delgado said the victim alleges Ward became upset after they returned to his residence that evening due to the amount of time it had taken.  

Ward became violent and struck the victim in the face and forehead, according to the affidavit, and prevented her from leaving for the next three days by using a padlock on the residence every time he left. 

During that time, the victim said, Ward also punched, kicked, kneed, choked and otherwise beat her severely, according to the affidavit. 

According to the statement, Ward told the victim “that he would kill (her) before he went to prison for this.” 

On the third day of her captivity, Ward gathered the victim in his vehicle and instructed her to wear a hat and lie flat in the vehicle to avoid being seen, or “she would make things worse,” according to the affidavit. 

Not far from the residence, Ward stopped the vehicle to say hello to an acquaintance and instructed the victim to feign sleep while he was outside the vehicle, the statement said. 

The victim, noticing the doors were unlocked, fled to the nearest carport and asked someone to call 911; Ward apparently did not follow her and was not on the scene when deputies arrived, according to the affidavit. 

Deputies from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said they arrested Ward at a residence in the 500 block of New Center Road in Hartselle on June 13. 

An issue at Friday’s hearing was whether Ward would be jailed without bond pursuant to Aniah’s Law, a state law that took effect after a constitutional amendment passed in November. 

Prior to that law’s passage, only defendants charged with a capital crime could be held without bond. Charges of kidnapping and several other violent offenses now allow a judge to deny bond provided the prosecution demonstrates that “no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably ensure the defendant’s appearance in court or protect the safety of the community or any person.” 

Following Delgado’s testimony on Friday, Vickery and Belser were unable to come to an agreement on what bond amount was appropriate. Vickery would not agree to any amount less than $200,000.  

Belser argued to Craig that a bond is not supposed to be punitive and requested it be set at $10,000 to $15,000 for Ward, claiming that was all his client could afford. Belser also asked the judge to consider house arrest. 

Craig said that, although Ward apparently has a criminal history in Tennessee to include a probation violation in January, and although the evidence against Ward is strong, he is nevertheless entitled to bond due to having no prior violent felony convictions. 

Craig set Ward’s bond at $52,500 with a no-contact order with the victim. Should Ward make bond, he must also participate in a Morgan County Community Corrections pretrial release program and wear an ankle monitor, according to the order signed by Craig. 

Belser on Monday said he plans on filing another motion to reduce bond if Ward is unable to pay the $52,500. 

“We will probably be requesting a preliminary hearing in the next couple of days,” Belser said. “My client maintains his innocence on all charges.” 

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