GREENFIELD — A developmentally disabled man will not stand trial on the rape charge he faced after a judge decided he was unable to understand the proceedings.
Robert Ward, 56, Anderson, will be committed to the Indiana Department of Mental Health indefinitely, where he can receive specialized counseling and care, officials said.
The Level 3 felony count of rape Ward faces – which was filed against him last year after police found photos of Ward sexually assaulting a resident with a severe mental disability at a Greenfield group home, according to court documents – will remain on his record, unsettled, until prosecutors and his defense attorney decide how to proceed.
Doctors determined Ward wasn’t able to understand the criminal proceedings in his current state, Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton said, and the judge decided the defendant would be placed in the care of the mental health facility until further notice.
But Ward’s criminal case will not be closed.
Ward lacks the ability to understand the proceedings now, but perhaps with the right treatment and help, the man will come to understand that his actions amounted to a crime, and prosecutors could proceed with the criminal case, Eaton said.
Ward was arrested after staffers at Developmental Services Alternatives group home in Greenfield, where he was living last year, became suspicious he’d harmed a resident at another of their area facilities. Police later recovered deleted photographs on Ward’s cellphone that showed him touching the woman inappropriately, court records state.
Ward’s ability to understand the proceedings concerned law enforcement officers from the start of the case: Ward had the mindset of the 14-year-old, but prosecutors believe he understood he’d done something wrong because he appeared to have tried to delete evidence of the crime.
Earlier this year, Ward’s attorney, Christopher Isom of Greenfield, asked a judge to appoint a pair of medical experts to meet with Ward to determine if the defendant could stand trial.
The request was granted, and two doctors met with Ward. The results of their examinations were submitted to the court in February. Hancock Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow announced the findings during a hearing Tuesday.
Experts told investigators the victim is considered severely disabled and has the functionality of a 3-year-old. Ward has a milder disability and the mindset of a 14-year-old, court documents state.
Developmental Service Alternatives staffers contacted police after becoming suspicious Ward had harmed another resident, according to court records. 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.
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. An employee from the group home who knew Ward well sat with police during the interview, 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 said he then decided not to, court documents state.
Investigators later recovered the deleted photographs, court documents state.
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 still being held in the Hancock County Jail on $5,000 cash bond at press time, awaiting transfer to the mental health facility.