Man sentenced to 50 years for slaying at hotel

Lucas Scott Ward

WOODSTOCK – Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp on Wednesday sentenced Lucas Scott Ward to 50 years in prison for the 2014 second-degree murder of Corry Patrick O’Neill in a hotel room at the Ramada Inn in Strasburg.

The sentence handed down in Shenandoah County Circuit Court was part of a plea deal and included the following agreed-upon charges: use of a firearm, malicious bodily injury, strangulation, abduction and assault on a police officer.

“This case is nothing short of cold-blooded murder, followed by a brutal sexual attack, followed by a brutal attack on a police officer,” Hupp said.

As per Ward’s guilty plea, the county Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office dropped the charges of attempted rape, abduction with intent to defile, resisting arrest and the destruction of property, according to the plea agreement.

During the sentencing hearing, O’Neill’s uncle, his stepmother, his father, his younger brother and his sister spoke about him.

From the witness stand, O’Neill’s younger brother Justin said his brother was a mentor to him and that he would have been the first to offer aid. Justin O’Neill also said Ward’s intoxication was no excuse for a crime.

“My brother Corry would have helped you,” he told Ward from the stand.

Cuffed at the hands and feet, Ward was clad in a gray and white striped jumpsuit with the Rappahanock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail prison label stamped across the back. He teared up as he apologized to the small gathering of O’Neill’s friends and family.

“As I read the victims’ impact statements, my words seem smaller and smaller, perhaps inadequate,” Ward said. “I’m sorry to Corry and sorry to all others affected by this tragedy … I’m not asking for forgiveness today.”

For the defense, Ward’s testimony followed those of a clinical psychologist, a childhood friend, a coworker and Ward’s sister.

The fatal encounter between Corry O’Neill, formerly of Strasburg, and Ward, of Maryland, occurred on Oct. 26, 2014. Corry O’Neill and his sister had invited Ward and his friend to their hotel room following a wedding they all attended, according to witness testimony.

After drinking alcohol throughout the night, at approximately 3 a.m., Ward drew a concealed firearm and shot Corry O’Neill in the mouth. Ward’s friend left the room in shock, and Ward attacked Corry O’Neill’s sister Sadie M. Beck, according to testimony.

“You’ve taken away my ability to love and trust,” Beck said Wednesday in her testimony.

Beck left the courtroom when Ward took the stand.

In a fiery closing argument, Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda McDonald Wiseley called the murder an “execution” and pushed for a tough sentence.

“What the defendant did that evening is nothing short of atrocious and has ripped that family apart,” she said.

All members of the family, including Corry O’Neill’s stepmother Lisa, spoke of his intellect, his kindness, his capacity for empathy and his insight.

“He had a robust zest for life,” Lisa O’Neill said. “People who knew him knew that. If people were colors, Corry was a rainbow.”

In his final remarks, Hupp sentenced Ward to 40 years for murder in the second degree, three years for the use of a firearm, three years for strangulation, three years for abduction and one year for the assault on a police officer. Hupp suspended the 10-year sentence for malicious bodily injury.

Ward is set for release in 2066.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com