Father of jailed teen says girl needs help, not punishment — (San Antonio Express-News)

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San Antonio Express-News

May 11, 1996

Author: Matt Flores, Express-News Staff Writer

[]Maggie Ward, the 17-year-old Poth girl who is accused of fatally shooting her mother in February, was taking anti-depressant medication because she was suicidal and once called for emergency assistance claiming she was being assaulted when she wasn’t, her father said in a recent interview.  Tom Ward, who this week broke his silence with the media over the incident, said his daughter “obviously is mentally ill” and needs psychiatric therapy, which she isn’t receiving while in confinement at a juvenile facility in Hondo. 

“There is no way I can recover the loss of my wife, but I am in a position to where I can prevent losing my daughter,” Ward said.  Maggie Ward has been charged with delinquent conduct-murder for the Feb. 26 slaying of her mother, Janet Ward, 47.  A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Floresville to determine if she should stand trial as an adult in the case.  She was two months’ shy of her 17th birthday when her mother was shot.

Juveniles younger than 17 can be tried in criminal courts only if they are certified as adults.The outcome of Tuesday’s hearing is crucial for Maggie Ward because it could dictate the range of punishment she could receive, if convicted of murder.If she remains under the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system, Ward could receive up to 40 years’ imprisonment. If she is tried in an adult criminal court, she could face up to 99 years or a life imprisonment.”I believe she was near suicide at the time of the shooting,” the father said. “I’m not trying to say she doesn’t need to be confined. I’m saying that she needs to have therapy, and she’s not getting any now.”

District Attorney Lynn Ellison said he wanted to try the teenager in an adult court because it is “more appropriate.” “The appropriate place to seek justice is in the adult system because it gives a broader range of punishment for the judge and the jury to set,” Ellison said.Ward said his daughter’s chances for getting the kind of help she needs are greater if she is tried in the juvenile justice system.”She needs help, not a capricious, arbitrary judgment,” the father said.  He described his daughter as “suicidal” in the 60 days prior to the shooting, and recalled one instance in December she called 911, claiming that two men had broken in and assaulted her at home.  Officers and paramedics who arrived at the Ward household a short time later found no evidence of a break in or of an assault, Ward said.

A month earlier Maggie was kicked out of school for stealing. Ward, who is principal at Poth High School, said he and his wife became aware of their daughter’s problems “almost immediately” after the family had moved from Austin to the small Wilson County community two years ago.  Although his daughter’s problems coincided with the move, Ward doubted it caused any problems because Maggie supported the decision. And he described his daughter’s relationship with his wife as “sisterly.”  He said his daughter experienced severe mood swings that often were marked by anxiety or depression. On several occasions, he said, she would hyperventilate or became disoriented.  Despite undergoing a battery of tests by psychiatrists and a neurologist, doctors never were able to offer a complete diagnosis, Ward said. She twice was prescribed different anti-depressants. “Did we see the clouds? Yes,” Ward began, “but we didn’t expect lightning to hit the house.”

Record Number:  SAEN147143