A man was arrested this week amid allegations he took photos of himself sexually assaulting a fellow resident at a Greenfield group home, court documents state.
Police said their investigation shows Robert Ward, 55, 227 Gaslite Lane, Greenfield, is developmentally disabled but clearly understood his behavior was illegal and tried to conceal what he’d done by deleting the images he took with a cellphone. He was taken into custody Monday evening and faces a Level 3 felony count of rape.
Ward lives in a group home for people with developmental disabilities. The victim stayed in a similar facility nearby, officials said.
Leaders of the group home told Greenfield police officers Ward has a mild developmental disability. They estimated he has the mindset of a 14-year-old, court documents state.
The victim, however, is severely disabled and has the functionality of a 3-year-old, court documents state. She cannot speak, so she could not provide a statement to investigators, according to court documents. Both homes are owned and operated by Greenfield-based Developmental Service Alternatives, officials said.
Group home employees called police in early August, alleging the man had entered the female resident’s room and used a cellphone to take inappropriate pictures of her, court documents state.
Security camera footage from inside the group home shows Ward entering the victim’s bedroom at least three times during a recent visit, court documents state.
Police searched the man’s phone as part of their investigation and discovered many of the images showed Ward sexually assaulting the victim, court documents state.
Employees said they became suspicious of Ward because he seemed to be avoiding the facility’s staff and waiting until no one was around before entering the victim’s bedroom to spend time with her, court documents state.
Investigating crimes involving people with disabilities can be difficult because officers need to determine the suspect’s level of understanding about the allegations, as well as whether they know their rights or can handle police questioning, Greenfield police Detective Lt. Randy Ratliff said.
Ward, who is his own legal guardian, gave police permission to search his cellphone and agreed to talk with officers about what happened, court documents state. Though Ward was removed from the group home when the allegations came to light, an employee who knew the suspect well sat with police as they interviewed Ward, court documents state.
In his conversation with police, Ward admitted he went into the victim’s room in order to take inappropriate pictures of her but decided not to, court documents state.
“He said that would make him an offender and that he would have to go to jail or prison for the rest of his life,” court documents state.
But officers recovered deleted photographs that Ward had taken on his own cellphone that showed him touching the woman inappropriately, court documents state.
Tonia Hassinger, the program services director for Developmental Service Alternatives, said the organization uses guidelines laid out by the Indiana Department of Health and other state agencies when creating policies to protect its residents; the organization currently has no plans to rewrite its protocols, she said.
Hassinger added she could not comment specifically about Ward’s case.
Ward is charged with a Level 3 felony count of rape, which carries a penalty of three to 16 years and up to $10,000 in fines.
Ward was being held in the Hancock County Jail on $5,000 cash bond at press time.