Ex-Woodford coroner convicted of sex charge given shock probation

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comSeptember 21, 2012 

Former Woodford County Coroner Steve Ward was granted shock probation Friday, nearly four months after pleading guilty to engaging in "deviant sexual intercourse" without the consent of a 14-year-old boy.

Special Judge William Clouse said in an order filed Friday in Woodford Circuit Court that a court appointed psychologist assessed Ward and "reported that he is unlikely to have future sexual contact with a minor."

The psychologist said Ward would benefit from a two-year sex abuse treatment program. The sex abuse treatment program that Ward enters has to be under the direction of a licensed mental health professional recommended by the psychologist.

Granting probation may be "the only way to see to it that the defendant receives the recommended treatment," the order said.

The order prohibits Ward from having contact with any adolescent without "direct supervision by an adult who understands the situation and meets the approval of the court."

Ward was nearly four months into a 360-day jail sentence for misdemeanor sexual misconduct. 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 Herald-Leader archives.

Ward pleaded guilty on May 29 and began serving his sentence in the Woodford County jail on June 1, according to the archives. He was released Friday, Woodford Jailer Johnny Jones said.

Ward will be on probation supervised by the court for two years, the order said.

Ward has owned Blackburn and Ward Funeral Home in Versailles since 1989, and he worked there for 12 years before that, according to Herald-Leader archives.

Ward's complete absence from the business for an extended period could have substantially impaired the business and negatively impacted the employees who work there, defense attorney Patrick Nash had argued in an earlier court motion.

In an interview on Friday, Nash said, "that funeral home has been one of the bedrock businesses of the community for many, many years ... If it had been allowed to fail ... that would have left a void in the community.

"Whatever a person may think about Steve's failings in other areas," Nash said, "there is no question that he is an outstanding funeral director and provided great service to families and still does."

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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