A Georgetown man, convicted in 2004 of murdering two men and dismembering their bodies, is asking for a new trial saying he has new evidence that may overturn those verdicts.
Jody Ward, 38, is serving two life sentences for the August 2002 murders of 25-year-old Elton Rutledge Jr. and 24-year-old Willfred Wescott Brown. After Brown and Rutledge were shot, their bodies were left in a wooded area in a rural part of the county.
Last month, Ward filed a motion for a new trial. He is asking for a public defender to be assigned to his case. He is also seeking funds for an investigator, forensic pathologist, forensic psychiatrist as well as experts in crime scene analysis and criminal personality profiling.
History of the case
According to authorities, Ward originally blamed the killings on his former shrimping partner, Brian Elliott. Ward claimed, in a taped statement recorded by the Sheriff’s Office, that he, Elliott, Rutledge and Brown drove to a dirt road off Gapway Road and the group started using drugs.
He claimed while they were together, Brown pulled out a gun and demanded money which resulted in a struggle between Brown and Elliott.
According to a transcript of the taped interview, Ward said Brown “shot it a couple of times in the vehicle,” adding Elliott then “grabbed the gun and spinned it around and when he did it shot Willfred in the head and he went down on the ground.”
Ward said Elliott then “turned right back around and shot Elton. Both of them dead. Then he starts tripping out and I told him to give me the gun and … he started crying and stuff and I … talked him into giving me the gun.”
Ward claimed he helped Elliott drag the bodies into the woods.
However, during the trial, Elliott’s wife testified her husband was at home the whole time Ward claims they were together.
Ward’s statement was also contradicted by other witnesses who testified Ward told them he shot the two men because he felt they had cheated him out of drug money.
More than a month after the shootings, the remains of the victims were found in a burlap bag that had been dumped in a swampy wooded area off Walker Farm Road.
Ward says he was in danger
In the documents filed May 16, Ward said he has learned a convicted serial killer who used to live in Georgetown but had also lived in Kentucky paid Rutledge and Brown to kill Ward.
The man Ward is accusing of the “murder for hire” plot is Andrew Abner who, in April 2010, pled guilty to murder in Somerset, Ky. After his arrest in 2010, Abner confessed to three murders in Kentucky in the 1980s and ’90s.
Ward says his mother received a letter from Abner in October in which he told her he had paid Brown and Rutledge to kill her son.
Ward said he and Abner got into a fight on Dec. 13, 2000.
According to an incident report, Abner said he went to a house on Gapway in Georgetown to talk to Ward when Ward “ran out of the residence and attacked him with a knife.”
In retaliation, Abner used a wood chisel to defend himself.
Ward told a different story, saying Abner “immediately attacked him” with the chisel, stabbing him several times. Both men required medical treatment. Abner was never charged for the stabbing.
In a letter he wrote to the Georgetown Times, Ward says that incident “is (Abner’s) motive for hiring Willfred Brown and Elton Rutledge to kill me.”
Ward, in his letter, says he believes he should get a new trial since this new evidence “raises reasonable doubt of my guilt verses my innocence.”
The Georgetown Times tried to get comments from the Solicitor’s Office Tuesday but calls and e-mails to both Solicitor Greg Hembree and his assistant, Scott Hixson were not returned.
By Scott Harper
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