Jury finds Ward not guilty in Dover murder trial

DOVER – Not guilty on all counts was the verdict Monday afternoon for a 29-year-old Camden-Wyoming man accused of arranging a drug-related robbery try that unexpectedly ended with a fatal shooting last year at a Dover apartment complex.

A six-woman, six-man Kent County Superior Court jury took less than two hours to determine the fate of Raymond Ward, held in custody since shortly after Dequan Dukes died from a single gunshot wound to the chest at the Pine Grove Apartments on June 27, 2017. Mr. Ward was arrested on July 10, 2017 in an investigation that identified three other alleged co-conspirators also charged with felonies.

Mr. Ward showed no discernible reaction as the jury’s forewoman answered “Not guilty” when asked about charges of first-degree murder, second-degree conspiracy, first-degree attempted robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The jury also opted not to convict on a lesser included second-degree murder count.

Afterward, Mr. Ward’s family declined comment while leaving the Kent County Courthouse.

Defense attorney Thomas D. Donovan, who represented Mr. Ward along with attorney Zachary A. George, described it as a “Great day” in which “Justice was served.

“The jury understood the evidence or lack thereof so we’re happy for Ray and his family.”

Prosecuting Deputy Attorney General Stephen E. Smith, who teamed with DAG Jason C. Cohee on the case, said he was “Of course disappointed with the result and thank the jury for their service.”

While Mr. Ward was released from a bond on the murder case, he remained in custody in connection with a $60,000 cash only bail on weapons-related charges in which Judge Jeffrey C. Clark indicated a trial date was to be determined.

After Mr. Ward opted not to testify and the defense rested late in the morning, both sides urged the jury to evaluate witness credibility in closing arguments that followed.

While DAG Smith maintained alleged co-conspirators Gregory Sellers and Lisa Wagaman faced severe penalties if they lied under oath, Mr. Donovan argued that they “can’t (get the) start, middle or end of (the) story together … they don’t corroborate each other, they don’t match up.”

Summing up the prosecution’s case to the jury, DAG Smith stressed that Ms. Wagaman’s and Sellers’ final testimony matched up enough to convict Mr. Ward in the trial that opened last Tuesday. He described the deadly result as “entirely foreseeable, but the defendant did not care about the risk to Mr. Dukes. The defendant cared about the contents in the bag.”

No murder weapon was ever located, Mr. Donovan stressed, and investigating police failed to search three locations Sellers traveled shortly after the shooting. A Dover Police detective testified Monday that not enough reason existed for those search warrants.

While Mr. Donovan questioned Ms. Wagaman’s recollection of sequence of events and their time frames, DAG Smith recounted her testimony as being a drug user on the day of the shooting.

Sellers earlier pleaded guilty to charges related to the incident and faces 6 to 52 years in prison when sentenced. Ms. Wagaman has not come to trial yet on murder-related counts.

Mr. Ward was the only person who was previously connected to the other three alleged co-conspirators before Mr. Dukes died, the prosecution said. Brett A. Scott was earlier convicted of second-degree murder after investigators determined he triggered the deadly gunshot into Mr. Dukes.

According to Mr. Donovan, “there wasn’t much investigation in this case.”

The prosecution maintained that Scott at close range discharged his weapon five times toward Mr. Dukes, who fired his gun nine times and wounded the assailant.

DAG Smith described the last chapter of Mr. Dukes’ life as “full of betrayal, violence and ultimately death.” Mr. Donovan believed that investigators built a false narrative to point blame at Mr. Ward.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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