EATON, Ohio (WDTN) – The third day of trial for a former OSP trooper was centered around victim testimony.
The first accuser to take the stand Wednesday was a National Guard recruit who said she filed a complaint against former trooper Christopher Ward hours after their encounter.
Dash cam video shown in court recorded as Ward pulled over a car in January 2015 near New Lebanon. The driver is asked to get out of the car and is then taken into the back seat of Ward’s cruiser.
The passenger agrees to a pat down. She said Ward asked if there was anything she was concealing on herself. The victim described wearing shorts under her sweat pants. As Ward proceeded to pat her down, she said she became uncomfortable and felt something was wrong. She told a judge she was groped up to three times by Ward. She described Ward cupping his hands and touching her between her legs.
Although there was a second trooper with Ward, she said he was not paying attention to what Ward was doing. She said she didn’t speak up during the assault. “(I) felt intimidated. I didn’t know what I could do. I felt like it was something I had to do.”
Video shows she was then put in the back of the cruiser with her friend who she then disclosed to. There is no video of the alleged assault.
On cross examination, Ward’s attorney suggests the former OSP trooper was suspicious of the victim and her driver because they were seen rustling through the backseat as they were stopped. The defense also said during the pat down, Ward was trying to determine if the drawstrings of the victim’s shorts were drugs.
The next witness to take the stand said she was traveling in the greater Columbus area when Ward pulled her over in 2017. During that stop, she said he jumped into her truck through the passenger side door saying it was dangerous for him to be on the driver’s side exposed to traffic. She says his zipper was down and she yelled at him to leave the truck. She said he did not, instead he forced her to perform oral sex.
The victim said Ward threatened her to stay silent. She said he told her, “If I had my own car I could take you where no one would find you. Aren’t you lucky you get to go home today?”
On cross examination however, she could not recall the time of day, day of the week or the month this happened. The defense also said the road she was traveling on would have been heavily trafficked, suggesting someone driving by would have noticed something was happening.
Another witness on the stand was Ohio BCI agent Laetitia Schuler who interviewed Ward when allegations against him first came to light. The BCI investigator was called in by the Preble County Sheriff’s Office. They wanted to avoid any bias or appearance of bias after they were informed that a teen disclosed Ward groped her between her legs. That teen, who is a friend of Ward’s daughter, testified Tuesday.
An audio recording of that interview was played in the court room. In that recording, Ward completely denied ever touching his daughter’s teenage friend. He even said he could lose his job if he touched anyone.
Schuler said she realized during the interview that parts of Ward’s story were not lining up with what the teen was accusing him of doing.
In the tapes, Ward said he was in the room the teens where were sleeping the night of the alleged assault looking for the family cat. He said the cat typically slept in the basement where it would not wake the children up at night.
Ward said in that interview, “I wasn’t real aggressive when getting the cat, you know, because I didn’t want to bother, or wake them up, freak them out or whatever. I went to grab the cat and it freaking gets up and tries to head to the bed to go up there. And as a matter of fact, I know I did hit her shoulder.”
He said that was the only physical contact he had with the teen accuser.
The judge was scheduled to hear from one more victim Wednesday who reported Ward forced her to perform oral sex. She came forward after Ward was arrested. That victim did not show up today. Instead, her former employer testified saying the victim disclosed to him what happened moments after her alleged assault.
Thursday, the defense expects to present their first witnesses.