Masked robber pleads guilty

Cary Ashby • Dec 4, 2012 at 9:14 AM

A Knox County man pleaded guilty Monday to a Willard armed robbery and using half of the stolen money to buy heroin.

Van J. Ward, 31, of Fredericktown, was convicted of an amended charge of robbery for the armed robbery at L&L Drive-Thru in Willard. He faces two to eight years in prison and maximum fine of $15,000 when he is sentenced Jan. 15.

"The state will be free to argue for any sentence at sentencing," Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said about the plea deal.

Ward originally was charged with aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony, but he pleaded guilty to robbery, a second-degree felony. Huron County Public Defender David Longo said the amended charge is "a lesser included charge."

The Huron County Sheriff's Office started developing leads in the case July 2 when the Willard Police Department was involved in another investigation.

On June 27, Ward parked at L&L Drive-Thru. Leffler said the defendant was wearing a ski mask when he entered the South Conwell Avenue, Willard, business, "presented what appeared to be gun" and demanded money from the clerk.

Ward, who received $1,100 from the clerk, "used half of the money to buy heroin in Shelby, Ohio," Leffler said.

Detectives Josh Querin and John Harris interviewed Ward on Aug. 14.

"He indicated he had a heroin addiction of about 20 balloons a day," Leffler said. "Mr. Ward was cooperative with the authorities."

After Ward provided information on where the air-soft gun was, detectives recovered it Aug. 14 in Willard.

Ward's brother, Anthony A. Ward, 24, also of Fredericktown, is accused of being the driver.

"We currently have a holder on him for the armed robbery," Querin said recently. "Anthony has a significant criminal history and he's a good person to get off the street."

Ward has been unable to post a $100,000 bond at the Knox County Jail since Nov. 11. He is charged with trafficking in drugs in connection with an investigation by Fredericktown police.

"We've been working hand-in-hand with the Fredericktown Police Department," Querin said.

Van Ward, who is out on bond, is subject to random drug screens and is prohibited from possessing any deadly weapons.

"He's already under supervision in Richland County. They're aware of his situation," Longo said.

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