EATON — A former Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper from Preble County could face penalties of lifetime sex offender registry, or even life in prison, after being convicted of multiple sex abuse charges in Preble County Common Pleas Court Monday.
Christopher Ward, 45, of Eaton, was convicted of one count of sexual battery, a third-degree felony, and three counts of gross sexual imposition, a fourth-degree felony. The verdict was issued Monday morning following a trial that spanned most of the previous week. Ward reportedly rejected a plea deal offered by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office that would have taken the possibility of life imprisonment off the table.
Representatives of multiple major news organizations were present during last week’s bench trial. The case was prosecuted by Ohio AG’s Office Special Prosecutor Joel King and investigated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Ward was defended by Preble County attorney H. Steven Hobbs. Retired Montgomery County Judge James A. Brogan presided.
The charges against Ward involved accusations of sexual misconduct by five adult women and one minor. Hobbs claimed during opening remarks that the initial complaint about Ward behaving inappropriately with a minor was instigated by Ward’s wife, with whom he was engaged in a custody dispute at the time.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, alleged Ward groped two women during traffic stops, one of which took place on U.S. 35 in New Lebanon in 2015, and forced two others to perform sex acts on him. A fifth woman, to whom Ward reportedly gave his phone number following a traffic stop in 2007, was allegedly groped by Ward after returning to the defendant’s home following a date.
Ward’s wife testified the two met when the defendant pulled her over for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.
The alleged minor victim, a 15-year-old girl, testified she woke up twice while spending the night at Ward’s home in 2018 to find the defendant touching her thigh and a third time to find his hand reaching under her garments. Ward was allegedly inebriated and had fallen asleep on the floor next to the girl’s bed. Ward later claimed in an interview with investigators he was attempting to retrieve a cat which had jumped onto the bed and “may have brushed against the girl’s shoulder” while doing so.
Ward was ordered released on bond following trial; his next court appearance is a sentencing hearing to be held Thursday, Jan. 16.