MALONE — Angela Ball cried as she apologized to Ward Guy Wilbur’s family and friends, saying she still loves him and didn’t mean to kill him.
Moments later in Franklin County Court on Tuesday afternoon, the 30-year-old Saranac Lake woman — who was described by prosecutors as devoid of humanity — was sentenced to 20 years to life for second-degree murder and a concurrent 20-year term for first-degree assault.
Wilbur, 65, of Lake Placid, was beaten and stabbed to death by Ball at her apartment at 19 Morris Way in Saranac Lake on Nov. 25, 2013.
An autopsy revealed he had suffered two broken forearms and a fractured skull and died from a stab wound to the chest that pierced a lung and the main blood vessel to his heart.
The courtroom gallery was filled with onlookers Tuesday afternoon to hear the sentence, including at least two of the jurors who had heard the case.
There was also a sizable gathering of State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation personnel, a number of county employees and school students, in addition to Wilbur’s relatives.
Ball, wearing a two-piece, orange, jail-issued outfit with a white, long-sleeved shirt underneath, took a deep breath and exhaled slowly as she made her way to the defense table, bound about the ankles, wrists and waist by a series of chains and handcuffs.
Wilbur’s sister, Alta Dostal, came from Massachusetts to read a victim-impact statement on behalf of her family before Judge Robert G. Main Jr. passed sentence, saying Ball had “no idea what you took from us when you thoughtlessly took Ward’s life.
“You have left a hole in our family and in our hearts,” she said. “The saddest part is that even though our mother is suffering from dementia, she knew in her heart that you were evil.
“She had you figured out right from the start, and she tried to convince Ward to get away from you,” Dostal said.
“We all are wishing now that he had listened.”
Acting District Attorney Glenn MacNeill urged the judge to give Ball the maximum 25-year sentence on each count and order them served consecutively because of the brutality of the crime.
He recalled evidence and testimony from the February trial at which she was found guilty, reminding the judge that Ball continued beating Wilbur with a baseball bat even as he pleaded with her to stop.
And once he was down on the ground and moaning in pain in the corner, MacNeill said, Ball used the sole of her shoe to straighten the bent knife blade, went to Wilbur and delivered the fatal blow.
“This was nothing but a cold-blooded assault and murder,” the acting DA said. “She has shown no remorse for what she’s done.”
MacNeill referred to a pre-sentencing report compiled by the County Probation Department that he said describes Ball as “a heartless, dangerous person with a total lack of humanity,” and he said she is “an absolute danger to society.”
'NOT A MONSTER'
Public Defender Thomas Soucia said everyone has a reason for doing what they do and that his client believed she was a victim of domestic violence, “and from her perspective, that was true.
“It’s clear she’s sorry for her actions and how she wishes he was still here,” he said, adding that Ball is not the monster she is made out to be.
“Some say I represent ugly people with no soul, but I always say, ‘People aren’t ugly. Their actions are,’” Soucia said, adding that Ball has a terrifying and scary life ahead in prison and will likely not get out before she is in her 50s.
He urged Main to review the pre-sentencing report about her life before she ended up in the courtroom.
Ball stood to face the judge, unrolled a crumpled piece of yellow legal-pad paper she held in her hand and said she prays for forgiveness from Wilbur’s family, especially his mother, whom she said she respected and didn’t want to cause sorrow.
“I never meant to murder Ward. I loved him. I still do. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened Nov. 25,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
Ball apologized for taking Wilbur away from his family, friends and the community, saying through tears, “anyone who experienced pain from his loss, I’m sorry.”
The judge said there is no way for him to make up for the family’s loss.
“The best this court can hope to do is to render a just result using the verdict from the jury that heard all of the evidence in this matter,” Main said.
“This was an horrific crime, a brutal murder, a savage incident.
“Only the defendant is left to know exactly what happened on that fateful morning and the hours and days leading up to it,” he said.
He said he had no words to console the family and no words to give Ball because her future is in the hands of others now.
'MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW'
Main sentenced her to the minimum 20-year sentence for the murder, concurrent with 20 years for the assault and five years of post-release supervision. He also ordered Ball to pay more than $6,300 for Wilbur’s funeral expenses.
After the court session concluded, Dostal hugged and thanked many of the State Police officers and prosecutors on the case.
She told the Press-Republican she was satisfied with the judge’s decision even though Ball did not get the maximum sentence for her brother’s murder.
“She is in for 20 years,” she said. “But I would have been happy to see her get 35 to 40.
“We didn’t realize how much damage she did to him until the trial,” she said, drawing in a sharp, deep breath.
“It was awful. My mother didn’t know, and she still doesn’t know everything that happened to him.”
Dostal said she had noticed the jurors in the gallery at the sentencing and knew it was unusual to see.
“But it was nice of them to come because they were a big part of this,” she said. “It was nice to see them there.”
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