OREGON CITY, Ore. – A man accused of killing two of his daughter's friends, then hiding their bodies on his property pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder charges and received two life sentences in prison.
Ward Weaver (search), 41, avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty in the 2002 deaths of the girls, classmates and friends who disappeared within two months of each other. In total, he pleaded guilty Wednesday to 17 counts, including rape, sex abuse and abuse of a corpse.
Speaking in a hoarse whisper, hunched over and looking mainly down, Weaver told the judge he had come to court on "medications" but agreed that the plea agreement was a product of his "own free will." It was not clear what the medications were for.
Weaver, whose modest rental home was just steps from the school bus stop where Ashley Pond (search) and Miranda Gaddis (search) were last seen, quickly became a focus of the investigation. He responded by inviting television crews into his home to film him proclaiming his innocence, giving interviews on top of the concrete slab in his back yard under which investigators later found the body of 12-year-old Ashley, who disappeared in January 2002.
Weaver was arrested on Aug. 13, 2002, after his son's girlfriend ran from his home, naked except for a tarp, screaming that he had tried to rape her.
After that arrest, FBI investigators cordoned off his back yard and searched for the girls' bodies. They found Ashley's in a barrel under the concrete slab. The body of 13-year-old Miranda was in a box in Weaver's tool shed.
On Wednesday, as Weaver pleaded guilty on each charge, the mothers of the two girls wept in court.
Lori Pond, Ashley's mother, broke down in tears as she addressed Weaver, who did not make eye contact with her.
"I know I have the memory of my daughter for the rest of my life. That cannot ever be taken away," Pond said. "I just know that I am going to live, continue on. I may have to do this without my daughter, but I have other children I need to be strong for."
Weaver's father, also named Ward Weaver, is on death row in California after he was convicted of killing a woman and burying her body in his back yard beneath concrete.