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Father Pleads Guilty In Crash That Paralyzed Daughter

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - A Brooklyn Park man pleaded guilty Thursday in a car crash that left his teenage daughter paralyzed.

On the first day of July, Earl Ward crashed his vehicle in a construction zone in St. Paul. Authorities say he was drunk behind the wheel.

Investigators say Ward, 46,  ran from the scene, leaving his kids -- 8-year-old Almond and 14-year-old Amarya -- alone and injured.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal vehicular operation with great bodily harm and to violating a domestic abuse no contact order.

Amarya has spent months in the hospital recovering after her spinal cord was nearly severed.

"She does still have days where she's having trouble, but ... she's very strong," her aunt Tracie West told WCCO in October.

According to the criminal complaint, St. Paul Police responded to a report of an accident at 3:22 a.m. July 1 at Hazel Street and Mechanic Avenue. When they arrived, they found a van that had crashed into a pavement cut-out on the middle of the street, marked with orange cones, caution tape and signs.

Police discovered the two seriously injured children in the front compartment of the van.

The girl suffered a fractured spine, which caused a loss of sensation below her shoulders. She also suffered a subdural hematoma and a fractured tooth.

The boy suffered a fractured femur, which protruded from his left leg. His femoral artery was also severed and required surgery.

The mother of the children was at the scene, and told police she went to a drive-in movie theater earlier in the evening with Ward, their two young children, her older son and his girlfriend. She said Ward was drinking alcohol during the movie and that he may have smoked crack cocaine outside of the van during to movie.

She said she drove everyone home, but when they arrived at the home of her son's girlfriend, she exited the vehicle along with her son and the girlfriend. Ward told her to get back in the van to drive the rest of them home, but she refused.

Ward then slid over and drove off in the van, and crashed into the pavement cut-out about a block later. After hearing the crash, she ran toward the van and heard her two young children screaming for her. She ran to call 911, but when she returned, Ward was gone.

Police received a tip early Tuesday evening that Ward was at his sister's residence in St. Paul. When police responded, they found Ward asleep in a parked car in a parking lot. His breath had a strong smell of alcohol, and his lip was swollen and bloody. He refused an interview with officers after his arrest for violation of a no contact order and a felony warrant for domestic assault.

Ward's girlfriend claims he had knocked out one of her front teeth a week earlier and strangled her a month ago. She said she didn't report the incidences because she was ashamed.

Ward has 11 felony convictions on his record, including two domestic violence-related convictions in the past decade. He also has two domestic abuse no contact orders filed against him.

Ward is expected to be sentenced on Jan. 26.



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