The stabbing death of a legally blind Bel Air man was the culmination of months of conflict between him and neighbors in his apartment building, events which led him to keep a gun in his apartment—a weapon that was intended for protection but which became the cause of his death.
Multiple sources familiar with Ward and his apartment building on Redfield Road in Bel Air detailed to The Dagger a series of events which they said led to Ward’s stabbing death late Friday night. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity due to concerns for their safety.
In the days since Ward’s murder, those who knew him have begun to come forward with details of the circumstances leading to his death.
Since early this year, they said Ward had grown increasingly fearful of his downstairs neighbors, a pair of women and their houseguest, who sources alleged may have been running a prostitution operation out of the apartment. One of the sources claimed that two women who lived in the apartment had propositioned visitors to the building.
Among those who spent time at the downstairs apartment, according to sources, was 17-year-old Donnell Graham who, according to charging documents, entered Ward’s apartment Friday night in an attempted burglary. Graham allegedly stabbed Ward in the chest, back and head before fleeing the scene, and was arrested a short time later by Harford County sheriff’s deputies. Despite the arrest of Graham and charges filed against him of first- and second-degree murder, the investigation into the incident remains active, according to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.
According to police reports, witnesses and residents of the apartment complex were able to quickly identify Graham as Ward’s killer, and provide his home address, just minutes after the murder. The rapid identification was a result of the witnesses familiarity with Graham, sources said.
According to one individual, Ward’s interaction with his neighbors was, at first, only a nuisance.
“Patrick hated the fact that they moved in,” the source said. “He couldn’t even sit on his balcony, they were bugging him for cigarettes, always asking to come over.”
At some point, another man in his late 50s, identified as David Bunner, took up residence with the women. According to a source close to Ward, he became leery of Bunner, claiming he had made threats against others in the building. However, the source said Ward maintained contact with the two women, Bunner, and Graham.
In the weeks prior to his murder, the source said the relationship between Ward, Bunner, and Graham became increasingly antagonistic. The source said Ward was hesitant to complain to law enforcement authorities for fear of retaliation. But over the next few months, he grew concerned enough that the source said he began keeping a gun in his apartment. In one encounter, Ward implied to the two men that he had a gun in the house.
Just a few days before his murder, sources said two younger girls from the downstairs apartment knocked on Ward’s door, and asked to visit. He let them in, but Graham was with them, and entered the apartment as well.
At some point during the visit, Graham asked to use Ward’s bathroom. The sources claimed that Ward later told friends that he didn’t hear the bathroom’s exhaust fan running, which comes on automatically with the light. Calling out to Graham, Ward heard his voice coming from further back in his apartment.
One source said the visitors left without incident, but that the encounter alarmed Ward.
“He doesn’t open the door for anyone, he keeps the door locked, he knows he’s a target,” the source said. “He was uncomfortable with them, these girls, but he thought they weren’t a threat.”
According to police, residents of the apartment complex reported hearing an altercation Friday night in Ward’s apartment. According to charging documents, witnesses told police that they were unable to enter Ward’s apartment through the front door, but were able to climb to his second-floor balcony. Entering his apartment, the witnesses said they saw Graham standing next to Ward in Ward’s bedroom. Graham fled the apartment as Ward collapsed, and the witnesses began to aid the injured man.
Graham was immediately identified “by numerous citizens” as the attacker, according to the first Harford County sheriff’s deputy on scene. Proceeding to the apartment, the deputy found a number of witnesses in Ward’s apartment, and two individuals tending to Ward. As the deputy helped aid Ward, another witness re-entered the apartment and provided Graham’s home address on Fairwood Road, a short distance away.
K-9 units led deputies from the crime scene to Graham’s apartment building, where “evidence related to the crime” was found. Graham was taken into custody and identified by witnesses.
EMS units arrived at the scene and transported Ward to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
According to a source, on the evening of the murder, Graham slipped out of a party at the women’s apartment and scaled the building to reach Pat’s balcony. Bunner was not present at the time, the source said, and it was those present at the party who heard the altercation and went to Ward’s apartment.
One source told The Dagger that Graham sought Ward’s gun to commit other crimes. Police said no connection to a gun has been made in the case.
“At this time, we have no knowledge of a gun being involved in this crime,” Harford County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Monica Worrell said.
However, the sources maintained their belief that Ward did own a gun.
“[Ward’s] family has been told they have not found a gun,” one source said. “That’s an issue because we know he had a gun, so if it’s not there, it had to be taken from there on Friday.”
The Harford County Sheriff’s Office declined to answer multiple questions about additional details in the case, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.
“This is an active ongoing investigation, and we can not/will not comment as it could hinder our investigation,” Worrell said in an e-mail to The Dagger.
A candlelight vigil remains scheduled for Friday night outside Ward’s apartment building on Redfield Road in Bel Air.