08/27/2002

Oregon City Search Ends After Slain Girls ID'd

Prosecutor says he will ask grand jury to indict Weaver

MSNBC/AP

OREGON CITY, Ore., -- Authorities said today that they have finished searching the rented home of a man suspected of murdering two girls whose bodies were found hidden in the backyard, and a prosecutor said he would ask a grand jury to indict Ward Weaver III once the evidence gathered at the crime scene is processed.

OREGON CITY Police Chief Gordon Huiras said on NBC that the search of Ward Francis Weaver III's home had ended following the discovery and identification of the missing girls, Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis.

He said that while investigators would probe whether Weaver might be connected to other murders or disappearances, the search of his property turned up no additional bodies.

Officials are now awaiting test results to determine how Ashley and Miranda died. FBI Special Agent Charles Mathews told "Today" those could take "several more days."

Greg Horner, the chief deputy district attorney in Clackamas County, said he would present the case to a grand jury to seek an indictment once the evidence gathered during the four-and-a-half day search of Weaver's former home is analyzed. Such a process typically takes days, if not weeks.

He said it was too early to say whether prosecutors would seek the death penalty.

DEFENSE EXPECTS INDICTMENT

Weaver, 39, has been in jail since Aug. 13 on an unrelated rape charge and has not been charged in either girl's death. But his attorney, Tim Lyons, said that he and his client were expecting that an indictment would be returned. Ashley Pond, left, and Miranda Gaddis, two teenage girls whose bodies were found on the rental property of Ward Weaver III in Oregon City, Ore.

"We are going to await the return of the indictment and see what the charges are and proceed from there," he said.

Meanwhile, Weaver's 19-year-old son, Francis, spoke publicly for the first time about his father's Aug. 13 arrest after allegedly raping the younger Weaver's girlfriend.

"I'm sorry that any of this even happened," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"I hope that now that (the girls' families) have closure and everything, they can go on with their lives and live their lives as good as they can."

Francis Weaver, who reportedly told police when he reported the alleged rape of his girlfriend that his father had killed the missing girls, declined to say why he believed that.

"(He) needs to be brought to justice for what he's done" and public comment could hinder prosecutors' efforts, Francis Weaver said. An undated file photo of Ward Weaver III.

Weaver remains in the Clackamas County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail until the rape trial, which has been scheduled for Oct. 10. That date may change if Weaver is charged with murdering the two girls.

Ashley's remains were found in barrel Sunday buried beneath a newly poured concrete slab behind Weaver's rented home, which is very close to where the girls lived. Miranda's body was found Saturday in a shed behind the home. Ashley and Miranda were 12 and 13 when they vanished.

'CASE HAS BEEN RESOLVED'
Weaver, who has denied involvement in the girls' disappearances, was identified as a suspect in the case for the first time on Saturday by Mathews, the agent in charge of the FBI's Portland office.

"Obviously, this is a very sad conclusion to this investigation," the FBI agent said at a news conference. "On the other hand, I think the case has been resolved."

Authorities obtained a search warrant from a judge for Weaver's home late Friday. Almost simultaneously, Weaver gave his written permission to search the property.

Weaver's attorney told The Oregonian that his client authorized the search because he wanted to "bring closure to the families."

Some relatives and friends of the Gaddis and Ponds families have said they were bothered that the bodies were found so close to the girls' apartment complex.

"It makes a pit in your stomach. I get angry because she was right there the whole time," said Terri Duffey, Miranda's aunt.

Although Weaver's ex-wife urged police to look under newly poured concrete in his backyard five months ago, authorities have said that they have moved as fast as they could to investigate Weaver given constitutional limits on searches.

Mathews said Tuesday on the "Today" show that obtaining a search warrant required establishing probable cause. "As soon as we were legally able, the task force was on the property," he said.

FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele also said search dogs were allowed in Weaver's backyard a few months ago, but it's possible that the bodies weren't there at the time.

FATHER ON DEATH ROW
An undated handout photo of Ward Francis Weaver Jr.

The Portland Tribune newspaper reported last week that Ward Weaver's father, Ward Francis Weaver Jr., is now on death row in California for two murders.

The truck driver was convicted of killing a man whose car had broken down and of kidnapping, raping and murdering the man's girlfriend, 23-year-old Barbara Levoy. Her body was found in 1982 buried beneath a deck at his home in Oroville, Calif., the newspaper said.

The prosecutor in that case, Ron Shumaker, said the elder Weaver's truck route also matched with 26 unsolved hitchhiker homicides, but he was never charged with any of the other crimes, the Portland Oregonian newspaper reported Sunday.

For Barbara Levoy's brother, Bob Levoy, the search at the younger Weaver's home is raising bad memories.

"It's like it's all happening all over again," Levoy of Lebanon, Mo., told KPTV in Portland. "And I know how the parents of those girls are feeling." Joanna Schisler, center, comforts her daughter, Hannah, 11, after FBI officials announced Sunday that remains found in a shed behind the home of Ward Weaver were those of Miranda Gaddis. Click "Play" to hear Jacquie Behrens, resident of Colton, Ore., describe why she visited the makeshift memorial outside Weaver's home.

ASHLEY ACCUSED WEAVER
Weaver knew Ashley, who was a friend of his daughter. She frequently stayed overnight at the Weaver house, went on a trip to California last year with Weaver and his daughter, and even lived at the house for several months last year while her own father was in jail on charges of abusing her.

Last summer, Ashley had accused Ward Weaver of molesting her, but he denied the allegations and was never charged. Family members and friends have said they had a close, and at times inappropriate, relationship.

Ashley disappeared Jan. 9. She was last seen eating breakfast with her younger sister and was to walk to a bus stop near Weaver's home in a low-income development tucked into a wooded valley south of Portland.

Miranda's mother, Michelle Duffey, said she last saw her daughter on March 8, as she prepared to go to school.

The FBI received thousands of tips but were unable to single out a suspect.

Then came the phone call from Weaver's son.

Weaver told reporters several months ago that the FBI considered him the prime suspect.

'LIKE A DAUGHTER'

Weaver, a single father, told The Associated Press last month that he treated Ashley as a daughter when she came to visit. He said he noticed Ashley often wore halter tops and miniskirts and that he often asked her to change into something more appropriate while at his house.

"My sister, the first time she saw Ashley, she told me I got to watch myself," Weaver said at the time. "I said, 'Shut up, she's 12."'

A chain-link fence erected by police around the property has become a makeshift memorial - festooned with flowers, teddy bears, and notes in which people expressed their grief. The owner of the home has indicated that the memorial will remain at the house until the community has healed from the dual tragedy.

On Monday night, Michelle Duffey, Miranda's mother, toured the memorial. With a hood over her head and hiding her face, she walked along the fence, looking at the flowers, stuffed animals and notes left to commemorate the lives of her daughter and her friend, Ashley. She left without speaking to reporters.

NBC's Chip Reid and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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