Man indicted on second-degree murder charge

WOODSTOCK – The gravity of the case against a man accused in a shooting death at a Strasburg hotel deepened Thursday as a circuit court grand jury handed up an indictment of second-degree murder and nine related offenses against him.

The new charges against Lucas Scott Ward, 34, of 556 Thompson Street, Strasburg, came more than a month after his arrest in the early morning hours of Oct. 26. Authorities accused him in the fatal shooting of Corey Patrick O’Neil, 42, of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Ward, who is being held without bond in the Rappahannock Warren and Shenandoah counties regional jail, was initially charged with voluntary manslaughter and abduction.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley gave few details about the investigation that led her to expand the list of charges against Ward from two to 10.

“He was arrested the night of the offense,” Wiseley said of Ward in a brief interview after an initial hearing on the charges. “However, the investigation continued, and it yielded facts that supported the indictments by the grand jury.”

Ward appeared in the courtroom on a video conferencing screen that carried his image from the RSW regional jail.

Wiseley said it is normal for jail inmates to appear by video for hearings that are expected to be short and simple.

Michael A. Araj, a Harrisonburg-based criminal defense attorney, appeared on behalf of Ward. Araj told Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp that Robert Hahn, from the same law firm as Araj, will be Ward’s lead attorney.

The grand jury indicted Ward on second-degree murder, attempted rape, two counts of abduction, malicious bodily injury, strangulation, assault and battery against a law enforcement officer, using a firearm in committing a felony, resisting arrest and vandalism.

The few details about the case came from Strasburg police in the first days after the shooting.

Authorities say that a witness, John Michael Leonard, 33, of Strasburg, saw Ward shoot and kill O’Neil in room 205 of the Ramada Inn in Strasburg. A woman was also attacked by Ward in the same room as the shooting, police said. Her injuries included a broken arm and cuts to the neck. Authorities said she was hospitalized and released.

Strasburg police said O’Neil died in the hotel room around 3 a.m. moments before town police and members of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene.

Police say O’Neil died from a single shot fired by Ward from a .38 caliber revolver.

Authorities say Leonard called police after fleeing the hotel room where O’Neil was shot.

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