Press-Republican

November 27, 2013

Murder suspect called police

By FELICIA KRIEG
Press-Republican

---- — SARANAC LAKE — The woman charged with murdering Ward Guy Wilbur on Monday called police that morning to report a “possible assault.”

Angela Ball, 29, of Saranac Lake faces second-degree-murder charges in the death of Wilbur, a former boyfriend. She was arraigned in Saranac Lake Village Court late Monday night and sent to Franklin County Jail without bail.

Wilbur, 65, died in Apartment 3 at 19 Morris Way, where it appears Ball had been living for the past two months or so.

He suffered blunt-force trauma and stab wounds, said Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne.

‘CATASTROPHIC INJURIES’

Wilbur left his home at 19 Adirondack Loj Road in Lake Placid on Monday morning, driving his maroon Toyota sedan to Ball’s apartment, located in a residential neighborhood off Route 3 in the Village of Saranac Lake, Champagne said at a news conference Tuesday.

Wilbur arrived at about 8:30 a.m., and Saranac Lake Police Department Chief Bruce Nason said police believe he died “not long” after that because when they arrived at 11 a.m., it appeared he had been dead for awhile.

When asked if Wilbur’s life could have been saved if authorities had been called earlier, Champagne said, “The injuries were catastrophic.”

‘KNIFE, BAT SEIZED’

Police seized a knife and baseball bat from Ball’s apartment, Champagne said.

They also seized her clothing, about 100 small marijuana starter plants, some pot-growing equipment and Ball’s dog, now in the care of Elmore SPCA.

Champagne would not comment on whether drugs or alcohol were a factor in the alleged murder.

Ball, who is originally from the Philadelphia area, had lived at 1951 State Route 86 in the Town of Harrietstown but had apparently moved to 19 Morris Way sometime during the past two months.

She and Wilbur had known each other for about two years, Champagne said. They had been in an “intimate relationship” for the first year and had broken up but were still friends, the DA said.

Nason said Ball, who was at her apartment when police arrived, was wearing a jacket at the time. He did not elaborate on the appearance of her attire.

“She was cooperative with us” and did not resist arrest, he said, adding that police took her into custody as soon as they arrived at the apartment.

Champagne and Nason declined to release any other information regarding the events leading up to the alleged murder or what the inside of Apartment 3 looked like when they got there.

The homicide was an isolated incident, and public safety was not in jeopardy, the DA said.

AUTOPSY RESULTS PENDING

Dr. C. Francis Varga performed an autopsy Tuesday at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake to confirm the cause of Wilbur’s death. The DA said the results likely wouldn’t be available until the preliminary hearing, scheduled for Friday.

However, Ball’s attorney, Franklin County Public Defender Tom Soucia, may elect to forgo that court appearance, Champagne said.

Aiding the 12 Saranac Lake Police officers in the probe into Wilbur’s death are investigators with State Police Troop B’s Violent Crime Unit and Forensic Unit and Pennsylvania State Police.

“It’s truly a team approach,” Champagne said.

The evidence they have collected will be analyzed at both at the forensics lab in Ray Brook and the State Police Forensic Science Laboratory in Albany, the DA said.

PREVIOUS ARRESTS

Saranac Lake Village Police records show Ball has previous arrests.

She was charged on Dec. 20, 2012, with unlawful possession of marijuana after the vehicle she was driving was pulled over for speeding, authorities said.

On May 15 of this year, a report of an erratic driver resulted in Ball’s arrest. She was charged with driving while intoxicated, refusal to take a breath test and unlawful possession of marijuana, a police report says.

‘DIDN’T HEAR ANYTHING’

Authorities have permitted the tenants of the five other apartments at 19 Morris Way to remain living there, Nason said.

Courtney Martin, 19, lives on the second floor of the building.

She said she left her apartment at about 10 a.m. Monday and returned around 10 p.m. to find police on the property.

Judging by the timeline police have described, it’s possible that Martin was home when Wilbur was killed.

“I didn’t hear anything,” she told the Press-Republican. “I had no idea.”

‘LOOKED NORMAL’

Martin said police interviewed her Tuesday morning.

She has been living in the apartment building for about five months and, for the past two, she said, she had seen Ball going to and from her red car, parked in the building’s lot, a few times.

Martin said she never spoke with her, though.

“She looked normal.”

Martin said the property is owned by Bob Decker, who lives in an apartment in the back of the building.

‘WEIRD FEELING’

Philip Muha, 27, said that he had returned to his apartment in the building at about 11 a.m. Monday, when authorities first arrived.

“I originally thought it was a domestic dispute,” he said, adding that he was interviewed by police Monday.

“It’s a weird feeling,” he said of living in the building where someone was allegedly murdered. “It’s scary.”

Since moving in on Oct. 31, Muha said, it has been a quiet place to live.

“I’ve had no problems. No noise complaints or anything.”

Muha said he had never seen Ball or Wilbur.

Nason said he could not comment on whether police had previously responded to 19 Morris Way for any possible criminal activity.

‘MET LAST WEEK’

Rick Motes, 41, of Saranac Lake said he was introduced to Ball through a mutual friend sometime last week at the Rusty Nail bar on Main Street in the village.

“I only talked to her for a few minutes,” he said as he ate lunch at the Owl’s Nest Pizza Parlor on Main Street on Tuesday afternoon. “She was just standing at the bar.

“My first impression was she seemed like a nice girl.”

Motes, who moved from the Bronx to Saranac Lake about 20 years ago, said he came to the North Country to get away from the crime-ridden area downstate.

Even so, he said, “things like this can happen anywhere. Anyone is capable of committing an act of violence under the right circumstances.”

HOMICIDE RATE

The homicide rate in the United States is about two people per 100,000, Champagne said.

“It’s fairly consistent with a county our size to see one a year.”

The last murder in Saranac Lake was nine years ago, Nason said.

“It’s definitely unusual for us.”

‘SORRY FOR LOSS’

Nason said Wilbur has family in the Lake Placid area.

He graduated from Lake Placid Central School in 1965.

Amid the many questions the public had about Ball, Motes expressed sympathy for Wilbur’s family.

“I’m sorry for his family to go through this, especially so close to the holidays.”

Email Felicia Krieg:fkrieg@pressrepublican.comTwitter:@FeliciaKrieg