Defendant back in jail after treatment

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GREENFIELD — A man with a developmental disability who has been accused of rape is back in the Hancock County Jail after a lengthy medical evaluation.

Doctors determined last year that Robert Ward, 57, of Anderson, was unfit to stand trial because he wasn’t able to understand the criminal proceedings.

Ward faces a Level 3 felony count of rape. He was arrested after staffers at the group home in Greenfield where he was living became suspicious he’d harmed a resident at another of their facilities. Police later recovered deleted photographs on Ward’s cellphone that showed him touching a woman inappropriately, court records state.

In April 2017, Ward was committed to the Indiana Department of Mental Health, where he was to receive specialized counseling and care that would help him understand the allegations against him.

A judge ordered Ward to remain at the facility, located in Logansport, indefinitely. He was only to return to Hancock County when “he has been returned to competency,” according to court records.

All records regarding Ward’s competency are sealed from public view because they are considered medical records. But Ward was brought back to Hancock County this week, and he remained in the Hancock County Jail at press time.

A hearing in his case has been set for Nov. 7 in Hancock County Superior Court 1 before Judge Terry Snow.

Prosecutors told the Daily Reporter they aren’t yet sure how Ward’s case will move forward. Ward’s attorney, Christopher Isom of Greenfield, could not be reached for comment.

The criminal case against Ward was filed in August 2016.

His ability to understand the proceedings concerned law enforcement officers from the start of the case: Ward had the mindset of a 14-year-old, but prosecutors believe he understood he’d done something wrong because he appeared to have tried to delete what would have been considered evidence of the crime.

The victim is considered severely disabled and has the functionality of a 3-year-old, officials said.

Staffers at Developmental Service Alternatives, the company that oversees the group home where Ward and the victim lived, contacted police after becoming suspicious Ward had harmed the woman, according to court records. Security camera footage from inside the home shows Ward entering the victim’s bedroom at least three times during a 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 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.

Early on in the case, a judge appointed a pair of medical experts to meet with Ward to determine if the defendant could stand trial.

After the results were returned, prosecutors agreed to send Ward to an Indiana Department of Mental Health facility for treatment. His case was put on hold, but the rape charge he faces remained on his record.

The Level 3 felony count Ward faces carries a penalty of three to 16 years and up to $10,000 in fines.