Court dates set for administrator, husband
A Vian couple charged with knowingly concealing stolen property have been given separate court appearance dates.,
Julie Anne Ward, CEO/Administrator at Northeastern Health System – Sequoyah Hospital in Sallisaw, entered a plea of not guilty Wednesday before Associate District Judge Kyle Waters. She is scheduled on the felony disposition docket for 9 a.m. April 18 before Waters.
Her husband, Robert Ward, is scheduled for the disposition docket at 9 a.m. June 6.
Both are charged with knowingly concealing stolen property in connection with the theft of a Kabota tractor from Steven Wayne Chandler of Muskogee County.
In a related matter, the hospital's board of directors removed Julie Ward from all financial responsibilities and turned those duties over the hospital's chief financial officer Jennifer Palmer.
The board met Tuesday in an hour and a half executive session before voting to make the change to the chief financial officer. The board tabled the remainder of the agenda and will call a special meeting soon to consider the other items.
The charges stem from an investigation conducted by Sequoyah County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Cope and Investigator Gene Wheat who had been contacted by Steven Chandler, telling them his tractor had been stolen from his property in Muskogee County Feb. 19.
Chandler told the investigators his neighbor had seen a white, single cab, long bed Dodge pickup, with a trailer connected, enter his property, load the tractor on the trailer and leave the property.
Chandler told investigators he had information about a tractor similar to his in the Vian area that had been seen traveling down a county road north of Vian, being followed by a black Honda Ridgeline pickup, according to court documents.
In his affidavit, Cope said he was familiar with a black Honda Ridgeline pickup belonging to Robert Ward.
When Cope went to the Ward residence, he questioned Julie Ward about a tractor fitting the description of the stolen tractor that was sitting parked on the Ward property. Robert Ward was not home at the time. Cope said Ward told him her husband had purchased the tractor three to four years ago.
After getting permission to examine the tractor, Cope said he noticed the tractor had some distinguishing marks on it from the information Chandler had given him.
While inspecting the tractor, Cope said Robert Ward arrived home. When he asked Ward how long he had possessed the tractor, Cope said Robert Ward told him he had only had the tractor a couple of days.
Robert Ward said he had paid a man from Muskogee $2,000 as a down payment and brought the tractor home to try it out, Cope said in his affidavit. He said Ward did not know the man's name or phone number.
A warrant was issued for Julie Ward's arrest on March 16. However, that warrant was later withdrawn when Ward and the district attorney's office reached an agreement to have Ward appear in court Wednesday.
Robert Ward was processed through the Sequoyah County Detention Center March 20 and released on a $1,000 bond.