The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 13, 2013

Details in Ward shooting released

By Jessica Farrish
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department officers have released details about an April 18 shooting that left a Beckley man dead.

Grand jurors on June 17 indicted Michael Stines, 46, of Old Eccles Road, on one charge each of murder, brandishing a firearm and wanton endangerment for the shooting death of 39-year-old Christopher Ward of Country Club Drive in Beaver.

Raleigh prosecuting attorney Kristin Keller had not filed charges immediately but had instead turned the evidence over to a special grand jury to determine whether charges were warranted.

“Due to the circumstances behind the case, the prosecutor’s office and we felt it would be better to present it to the grand jury,” said Detective Lt. Joe Williams of the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department.

According to Williams, Ward was not living with his wife, Sharon Ward, of Beaver, on April 18.

“They had been separated for a few months, and Christopher came back to his residence to get some of his belongings,” Williams reported. “At some point in time, there may have been an argument between Sharon and Christopher.”

Williams said Stines, who was Sharon’s boyfriend, came to the Ward residence and fired several shots inside the home.

One of the bullets hit Ward, killing him.

“He admitted to firing the weapon,” said Williams.

He added that the wanton endangerment charge was filed because Sharon Ward and Ward’s three children were inside the home at the time Stines fired the gun.

Stines is currently on home confinement, Williams said. His bail was set at $50,000.

Williams added that he does not expect charges to be filed against Sharon Ward.

Neither Sharon Ward nor Stines contacted police prior to the shooting, he said.

Keller stated prosecutors often present facts to a special grand jury before making a criminal charge, in order to better judge how community members will weigh evidence that will be presented to jurors at trial.

Grand jurors may ask questions of potential witnesses and sometimes ask questions that raise valid points, she added.

Keller declined to specify the reasons for presenting the Stines case to a grand jury, but emphasized the decision is not unusual. Williams said Stines testified at the grand jury hearing.

Ward’s family members reported that Ward was not legally separated from Sharon Ward when he died but that he was in the process of filing for divorce.