Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ward Weaver: Like Father, Like Son

Weaver Talks to the Media

Ward Weaver III
Ward Weaver III

While task force investigators continued to run down one fruitless lead after another, time continued to slip forward. Little of significance was learned in April 2002, and May and June produced few results as well. Aside from going over Ward Weaver's background and compiling report after report on him and his family members, it wasn't until June 30 that anything new and significant occurred, when Weaver decided to break his silence and talk to the media. He contacted a reporter at the Portland Tribune who, as it turned out, was more than happy to hear what he had to say.

Weaver told the reporter that he did not know what had happened to Ashley and Miranda, but said that he did know that he was the FBI's prime suspect in that case. Asked how he came by that knowledge, Weaver said that he believed the FBI suspected him in that case because they learned that he had been convicted of assault in connection with women he had been close to, and because Ashley had made accusations that he had molested her. Another reason was that he had failed a polygraph examination regarding his knowledge about the case. And he indicated that perhaps the most important reason of all was that his father, Ward Weaver, Jr., was on California's death row for killing a young woman and a young man. After the Tribune article was published, the police acknowledged that they had known about Weaver's dad for a long time and had invested more time, energy, and money looking into Weaver III's potential culpability in the girls' disappearances — but not necessarily because of his father's crimes.

At one point, according to CNN, reporters asked the district attorney's office whether Weaver was really a suspect in the case as he himself had declared.

"We've never said that," said Greg Horner, Clackamas County chief deputy district attorney. "The police have never said that. The only one who's ever said that is him."

When details began to emerge about what the police knew and when they knew it caused many people in the community to begin asking why a search warrant hadn't been issued and executed at Weaver's rental home on Beavercreek Road. He had, after all, failed a lie detector test, and he had been named numerous times by various individuals as a potential suspect. Unfortunately, officials said, it wasn't enough, particularly when polygraph examinations are not admissible in a court of law. There was also the problem of several other people who had been investigated and had failed lie detector tests, too. It just wasn't enough for probable cause, according to Senior Clackamas County Deputy District Attorney Christine Landers.

"Probable cause," Landers said, "means it's more likely than not that evidence of the crime will be found during the search."

It wasn't as if the police hadn't tried to gather enough evidence to obtain a search warrant — they had. During the earlier phases of the case, Weaver had allowed investigators onto his property and into his house to conduct searches with his permission. Even with his permission, he could limit where they could go and what they could examine, something that he wouldn't be able to do if the cops had served a search warrant. He had even allowed search dogs and their handlers into his yard, to no avail. None of them, except the dog owned by a private non-law enforcement handler, had indicated that there was anything suspicious to pursue. Under the circumstances, there was little else that they could do without risking violating his constitutional rights. Doing so would damage, if not destroy, the entire case that they were attempting to build against Weaver. As a result, the cops did what was right — they played strictly by the rules and did everything by the book.

 

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