Robber to victim: 'I am truly sorry'

Cary Ashby • Jan 16, 2013 at 10:19 PM

The robbery victim and his family have been jumpy and stressed since the night of June 27.

"I very much felt like my life was in danger that night," the man told Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway.

Since the defendant, Van J. Ward, entered his business wearing a ski mask, the victim said his family "has uneasy feelings" every night. The investigation determined the 31-year-old Knox County man was armed with an air-soft gun and demanded money from the clerk.

"Every time the (door) beeper goes off, you jump," the victim said. "(We) put the business up for sale because of this."

Ward turned to the victim seated in the back of the courtroom Tuesday and spoke quietly.

"I am very sorry for what I've done ... to you -- for the consequences," the defendant said. "I want you to know I am truly sorry."

Ward, his eyes red, told the man he hoped one day he could be forgiven for the crime.

Conway, before announcing Ward's punishment, said armed robberies are dangerous -- whether they involve a real gun or an imitation -- and told Ward he's lucky he didn't encounter a victim who had a gun and pulled it on him.

"It might have been bad (for you) the other way," the judge said.

Court officials said the stress of the armed robbery at L&L Drive-Thru in Willard has made the owners -- a family and the only employees -- so stressed they're considering getting out of the business.

When people commit out-of-county robberies, Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said the suspects are taking a chance they'll be able to get away.

"These are ongoing problems; it's not a one-time offense," he said, citing other recent Huron County robberies involving out-of-county defendants.

Leffler said six- or seven-year prison term would be warranted because of similar cases.

Ward received five years in prison and was ordered to pay $1,258 in restitution; he could have faced as much as eight years of imprisonment

Conway said he imposed a shorter term than the prosecutor requested because he hoped Ward's apology was sincere. This also is Ward's first felony conviction, although the sentencing for a drug cultivation guilty plea is pending in another county.

On Dec. 3, Ward pleaded guilty to an amended charge of robbery.

He was convicted of using half of the money stolen from the incident to buy heroin in Shelby.

"He indicated he had a heroin addiction of about 20 balloons a day," Leffler said in December.

The Huron County Sheriff's Office started developing leads in the case July 2.

Detectives Josh Querin and John Harris interviewed Ward on Aug. 14. After he provided a map on where the air-soft gun was, detectives recovered it that day in Willard.

The day before Ward's case was resolved, the state's case against his younger brother just started.

Anthony A. Ward, 27, also of Fredericktown, is accused of being the getaway driver. He entered a "not guilty" plea Monday to one count each of complicity to aggravated robbery and robbery.

His trial is set for April 9. If convicted, Ward faces up to 11 years in prison. He is prohibited from having any association with the victim if he posts a $20,000 bond at the Huron County Jail.

The victim was asked what he thought of Van Ward's prison term.

"I think it was appropriate," he said after Tuesday's hearing.

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