Neighbor Had Boasted He was Leading Suspect
by Dan Eggen, Washington Post
OREGON CITY, Ore., -- Ward Weaver III seemed confident
innocence, cocky even, announcing to the world earlier this
year that he
was the chief suspect in the disappearance of two
girls who had lived around
At one point, Weaver even gave tours to reporters of his dreary
home and its overgrown yard, explaining that a concrete
slab had been poured
to support the weight of a new hot tub.
But two weeks ago, the focus of the case shifted dramatically:
was arrested on charges of raping his 19-year-old son's
the son told emergency dispatchers that Weaver had
admitted killing Ashley
Pond and Miranda Gaddis as well.
The developments led to this weekend's discovery of the girls'
on Weaver's property and Clackamas County prosecutors have
they hope to charge Weaver, 39, with murder. The
body of Miranda, 13, was
found under a tarp in a shed out back.
The remains of Ashley, 12, were
buried under that new concrete
slab, her body stuffed into a barrel.
Coming eight months after Ashley vanished, the gruesome
have stunned this historic working-class burg south of
Portland and have
prompted some residents to question why the FBI
and Oregon City police
were not quicker to focus on Weaver.
The case is made more bizarre by the suspect's familial
father, Ward Weaver Jr., is on California's death row
for two killings
-- including the rape and murder of a woman he
buried under a deck in his
"We were constantly driving by here, 20 to 30 times a day, and
she was right there all along is just heartbreaking,"
Terry Duffey, Ashley's
aunt, told reporters here Monday. "It's
horrifying to think that they were
right there all the
The crime scene fence around Ward Weaver III's residence --
feet tall and topped with barbed wire -- has been rapidly
the type of makeshift memorial now common to such
cases. The chain-link
barrier has nearly disappeared, blanketed in
teddy bears and flowers and
poems of remembrance from friends and
hundreds of others who didn't know
either of the girls.
Crowds over the last four days have been so large that
one point had to close South Beavercreek Road to
traffic. Many of the girls'
classmates and other town residents
have maintained a vigil around the
clock, illuminated at night by
candles and soothed by occasional singalongs.
"I've lived here all my life, and it's such a tragedy for the
said Brandi Hanks, who came to pay her respects at the
memorial fence with
her boyfriend, Anthony Purifoy, and their two
children, 5-year-old Raeleigh
and 11-month-old Anthony Jr. "This
is a country kind of place. Nothing
like this has ever happened
Certainly nothing as tragic as the fates of Ashley and Miranda,
friends who lived in the same apartment complex around the
Weaver and who disappeared two months apart after
leaving for school in
By the time Miranda disappeared in March, the girls' fate had
much of the Pacific Northwest, a local version of the
kidnappings and child
brutalities that have dominated cable
newscasts this summer. Now residents
of Oregon City, a
rough-around-the-edges kind of place that crawls up the
side of a
bluff overlooking the Willamette River, must cope with evidence
that one of their own neighbors may be responsible.
"The loss of these two girls is the most horrific thing that
to this town, and it will be with them for a very
long time," Charles Mathews,
special agent in charge of the FBI's
Portland office, said in an interview.
The case is made more bizarre by the details surrounding
had been accused by Ashley last year of molestation
but was never charged.
In the weeks following Ashley's
disappearance on Jan. 9, Weaver allowed
investigators to search
the property with dogs, with no results.
Authorities now say that Miranda's body was likely moved into
relatively recently, while Ashley's corpse may have been
behind the house
since Weaver laid the concrete slab in March. It
could take weeks, however,
before the state medical examiner is
able to determine with certainty how
the two girls died.
The FBI, which has concluded its search of Weaver's Oregon City
may now turn its attention to other houses Weaver has rented
in the area
in recent years. Authorities say they don't know of
any missing persons
cases that they could tie to Weaver but given
the grisly discoveries at
his home in Oregon City, they want to be
Some residents have criticized the FBI, which routinely
child kidnappings, and local authorities for not
pursuing Weaver aggressively
enough. Kristi Sloan, Weaver's
ex-wife, told reporters that she informed
the FBI months ago that
Weaver was dangerous and had been suspiciously
digging in his back
But Mathews, a veteran FBI agent who took command of the
office a year ago, said authorities lacked the
probable cause necessary
for a search of Weaver's home until his
arrest and his son's report of
a confession. "Frankly, there was
very little information to go on at first,"
Mathews said. "This
was not as straightforward as it might look now."
By today, FBI investigators had completed their search of
with backhoes and ground-penetrating radar, saying
they did not believe
there were any other bodies on the property.
Now that the girls' bodies
had been discovered, several giant
billboards in the Portland area seeking
information in the cases
have been taken down.
But the memorial fence, still drawing crowds and memorabilia,
in place for the foreseeable future, officials
The testimonies range from "United We Stand" balloons
the occasion to deeply personal messages from
those who knew the two girls.
"I'm not going to lie and tell you she was my best friend,"
of Miranda's classmates, "Mary." "We didn't get along so
great and that
makes me sad . . . I wish she were here so I could
say sorry for being