Homicide case defendant denied bond

By Joe Beck

WOODSTOCK — A Strasburg man charged in the shooting death at the town’s Ramada Inn was ordered held without bond in the Rappahannock-Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail after an initial appearance Monday in Shenandoah County General District Court.

Lucas Scott Ward, 34, of 556 Thompson St., Strasburg, faces charges of voluntary manslaughter and abduction. Authorities said more charges are likely against Ward as the investigation continues into the early Sunday morning shooting.

A criminal complaint filed against Ward states that John Michael Leonard, 33, of Strasburg, saw Ward shoot and kill Corey Patrick O’Neil, 42, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, in room 205 of the hotel. The complaint also identifies Sadie Melissa Beck, 26, of Knox, Pennsylvania, as the victim of an assault allegedly committed by Ward in the same room as the shooting.

Ward refused to allow Beck to leave the room, according to the complaint. Law enforcement officials said Ward was arrested after deputies and officers heard a woman screaming inside the room where the shooting occurred.

Strasburg Police Chief Tim Sutherly said in an interview that Ward, Leonard, O’Neil and Beck had all met earlier during the weekend at a wedding reception and “befriended each other.

“They partied together after the reception was over,” Sutherly said.

Sutherly said Beck suffered a broken arm and cuts to her neck as a result of the incident. Beck was hospitalized for her injuries and later released, Sutherly said.

Sutherly said Leonard was inside the room at the time of the shooting, fled the scene, called police and met them at the hotel when they arrived.

Sutherly said the state chief medical examiner confirmed Monday that O’Neil died of a single gunshot to the head. Sutherly said Ward used a .38-caliber revolver.

Sutherly said O’Neil died “seconds before” Strasburg police and members of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene after receiving a report at 3 a.m. of a shooting in the hotel.

Sutherly and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola both said Monday that they expect more charges to be filed against Ward.

Sutherly said he had no explanation for now of a motive in the shooting. He said alcohol was involved.

“I’m not going to say it was a contributing factor, but they were at a wedding reception and drinking heavily,” Sutherly said of Ward and those with him in the hotel.

Ward appeared in court shackled and in a jail uniform. Ward initially said in court he wanted to hire his own attorney, but quickly changed his mind.

“Are they expensive?” Ward asked Judge W. Dale Houff about the cost of hiring a private attorney.

“Well, that’s all relative,” Houff said, “but for this kind of case, the charge could be significant.”

Ward asked for a court-appointed attorney, but Houff rejected the request after the defendant said he had $15,000 in a bank account.

Houff set Ward’s next court appearance for 9 a.m. Nov. 24.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com