Ex-Woodford coroner Steve Ward seeks work release to run funeral home

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJuly 17, 2012 

Steve Ward pleaded guilty to "deviant sexual intercourse with a boy.

FRANK ANDERSON | STAFF FILE PHOTO

VERSAILLES — Former Woodford County Coroner Steve Ward, who is serving a jail sentence for misdemeanor sexual misconduct, will ask a judge later this month to approve a request to allow Ward to work during the day at his Versailles funeral home.

"Allowing this type of work release will insure that the Blackburn and Ward Funeral Home will continue to be viable and available to provide a valuable service to the citizens of Woodford County, and continued employment for the staff," said the motion submitted last month by Ward's attorney, Patrick Nash of Lexington.

The matter is scheduled for a hearing July 31 in Woodford Circuit Court before Special Judge Bill Clouse. Special Prosecutor Andy Sims, an assistant commonwealth's attorney in Jessamine and Garrard counties, said Tuesday he had no comment on the motion.

Ward, 58, pleaded guilty on May 29 to engaging in "deviant sexual intercourse" without the consent of a 14-year-old boy. Five other counts of third-degree sodomy were dismissed. The encounters with the boy, who is now an adult, happened from 1998 to 2000, according to an indictment.

Clouse sentenced Ward to serve 360 days in the Woodford County jail, and Ward began serving his sentence on June 1.

Ward has owned the funeral home since 1989, and he worked there for 12 years before buying the business from his predecessor, Leslie J. "Ikey" Blackburn Jr., according to the business's Web site.

The motion for work release said Ward employs staff at the funeral home, but the day-to-day management of the business is conducted by Ward himself.

"His duties include, but are not limited to, meeting with families and making visitation and funeral arrangements, working with insurance companies, assisting families in filing insurance claims, embalming, dressing, and otherwise preparing the deceased for services, working with the military for services that involve veterans, making arrangements for burials at numerous Central Kentucky cemeteries, preparing obituaries, arranging for and ordering headstones, meeting with families to make pre-arrangements, and attending to the accounts payable and receivable. There is no one at the Blackburn and Ward Funeral Home that can handle all these duties," the motion says.

"Ward's complete absence from the business, for an extended period, could substantially impair the business, and negatively impact the employees who work there," the motion says.

The funeral home handled about 50 funerals in the first 22 weeks of this year, for an average of about two services a week, the motion says.

The motion asks for a work release in which Ward would be allowed to leave the Woodford jail at 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, so he could be at work at 9 a.m., and return at 5:30 p.m. so he could remain at work until 5 p.m. He would not be allowed to engage in leisure or family activities aside from those that are work-related.

Nash said in his motion that it was not the judge's nor the prosecution's intent that the sentence imposed in Ward's case "would put the Blackburn and Ward Funeral Home out of business."

"Allowing this work release will insure that this long-time business, which has employed citizens of Woodford County for many years, will continue," the motion says.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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