Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ward Weaver: Like Father, Like Son

Serving Time

San Quentin Prison
San Quentin Prison

As investigators from multi-jurisdictional agencies continued to work hard in their attempt to solve the by now 17-month-old murders of Robert Radford and Barbara Levoy, they, of course, had no idea that their man was already residing inside a cell at San Quentin Prison. But they would learn soon enough that Weaver had committed other crimes after he had murdered Robert and Barbara, for which he had been convicted and sentenced to prison. The first clue that Ward Weaver Jr. was their guy came about when another prison inmate, who was looking to have time shaved off of his own sentence, reported that Weaver had told him intimate details of the rapes and murders involving Robert and Barbara, and provided details that Barbara's body might be buried in Weaver's backyard in Oroville. He had apparently told the inmate that he was in prison for kidnapping and rape, but that he had also committed murder and had gotten away with it!

When investigators began looking into his background to learn why he was serving time for kidnapping and rape, they learned that he had picked up two hitchhikers in Oregon, a young man and a 16-year-old girl, while working his route along I-5. He apparently drove the pair as far as the central California coast. At one point, he stopped in Oxnard and made a telephone call to a friend and asked him to join him. When the friend showed up, he forced the young man to go with his friend, but he kept the teenage girl with him. When the friend left with the young man, the pair knew that they were in serious trouble.

Weaver raped the girl repeatedly over the next several days in the cab of his truck, and eventually drove her to his home in Oroville, where he kept her locked inside a closet. The only time that he would allow her to come out was when he felt like raping her again. Unbeknownst to the girl, Weaver's friend had taken the young man to a secluded area where he shot him three times in the head and threw him down the side of a steep hill.

Amazingly, the young man survived the gunshots and had managed to climb back up the embankment. He was picked up by a passing motorist, who took him to a hospital for medical treatment and called the police. Upon retrospect, the police figured that the young man's ability to survive had been the determining element that had saved the teenage girl's life. He provided enough information about Weaver and his truck that the police were able to trace it quickly to Weaver. When they called his house for additional information, Weaver, as he later acknowledged, realized that he would not be able to kill the teen. He quickly drove her into the countryside and let her go as a last-ditch attempt, lame as it was, to avoid getting caught red-handed, so-to-speak. Nonetheless, Weaver and his friend were convicted of several serious offenses that included rape and conspiracy to commit murder, and were sentenced to life in prison.

Kern County Sheriff's Department Patch
Kern County Sheriff's Department Patch

As a result of the new information, the case was essentially turned over to the Kern County Sheriff's Department. Wasting no time, sheriff's deputies mobilized and converged on Weaver's home, while at the same time making plans to pay Weaver a visit at San Quentin if they found what they were looking for at his home.

Detectives carefully interviewed Weaver's wife and son at their home, taking extensive notes of every pertinent detail related to their case. They also asked for permission to search the yard, which Weaver's wife granted. His son showed them the platform that his father had built. Working under the presumption that the information that had been provided to them by the prison inmate was accurate, the investigators began digging in the area where the platform had been. After a short time they found what they had come there for — a body. Taking great care, they exhumed the badly decomposed corpse and sent it to the morgue, where a definitive autopsy would be performed by a licensed medical examiner.

It would eventually be confirmed that the corpse was dressed in the same clothing that Barbara Levoy had been wearing at the time of her disappearance. Strands of electrical tape were found on the collar of her shirt. When the outerwear was removed, however, it was noted that she was not wearing any panties, and none had been found with her body, prompting some to wonder whether Weaver had taken the panties as a trophy. Due to the advanced state of decomposition, it was impossible to make a positive identification visually. As a result, investigators obtained Barbara's dental records through the assistance of her family, and the corpse was positively identified as Barbara Levoy through a dental comparison. The medical examiner was unable to determine the cause of death, however, due to the severe decomposition.

 

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