Drifter Already Serving One Life Sentence Given Another for Arkansas Highway Rest Stop Slaying

A drifter already serving a life sentence for murder in Montana was given another life sentence Thursday for sexually assaulting and killing a woman at a highway rest stop in Arkansas.

"It is you now who will become the prey," the victim's mother, Lynn DiBenedetto, testified at a sentencing hearing for Ronald James Ward, 40.

The 25-year-old victim, Kristin Laurite, had left her New Jersey home on a trip to Eureka, Calif., planning to take a job at a day-care center along California's north coast. On Aug. 25, 2000, she stopped her yellow Volkswagen van at the Morrilton rest stop to let her two dogs play at a nearby pond.

The next day, the dogs led officers to her body, which had been dragged down toward the pond. She had been stabbed repeatedly and sexually assaulted.

Ward pleaded no contest Tuesday to murder.

He told lawyers he had no memory of the attack, which he said occurred when he was on a mix of cocaine, heroin and moonshine. His life sentence in Arkansas is intended to ensure he stays behind bars in case he is released early by Montana. He is serving a life sentence plus 10 years there for the shooting death of a man in the Sapphire Mountains.

At a sentencing hearing, Ward's public defender John Irwin said his client "would ask the forgiveness of the Lord."