Nanny’s alleged kidnapper shouts in court, prompting warning from judge

Joseph Ward
Joseph Ward Fresno Police Department

It was Joseph Ward’s turn on Tuesday to shed tears in court.

Ward, 35, is on trial for the alleged brutal attack on a 25-year-old nanny who was working in the Woodward Park neighborhood.

Prosecutors believe Ward sexually assaulted and robbed the woman.

The nanny delivered emotional testimony on Monday as she recalled the June 22, 2018 incident.

But it was Ward who cried Tuesday when his ex-girlfriend, Karla Rodas, testified about tipping police off that Ward was a possible suspect in the attack against the nanny.

One key piece of evidence against Ward is video tape from a neighbor’s surveillance camera that shows the nanny taking a walk with the 18-month-old child she cares for.

In the video, the nanny is seen pushing the baby in a stroller. About a minute later a man matching Ward’s description is seen following her.

Prosecutor Rick Thomas showed Rodas a photo taken from a home surveillance video the day of the incident and asked if that was Ward in the picture. She said yes.

Thomas asked Rodas if she still had feelings for him and she said, “I still do.”

Ward became overwhelmed with emotion. He started weeping, hanging his head down. He shouted “I love you” to Rodas.

Later, he appeared to become agitated at Thomas’ questions. Ward took off his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeves, took off his tie, and squirmed in his chair.

A second Fresno County Sheriff’s deputy was brought into the courtroom for added security.

Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan admonished Ward against speaking out. “If you speak one more time, you will be removed from this courtroom,” she said sternly.

Rodas met Ward about two years ago when she was working as a stripper. They started dating and moved into together about a year ago.

Rodas kicked him out six months later after his drug problem worsened, she testified. She said he acted paranoid when he would take methamphetamine.

Thomas asked her if Ward ever wanted to massage oil on her behind. Two strippers testified last week that Ward had a penchant for doing that to them and he’s accused of doing the same to the nanny. Rodas said he never asked to do that.

While Rodas didn’t want to believe Ward sexually assaulted the nanny, she still called the police after seeing the video on television.

“I just wanted to know the truth,” she said.

Ward’s attorney Amanda Moran continued to try and poke holes in the prosecution’s case. She questioned detective Jennifer Federico about the evidence against her client.

For example, Moran said the DA’s office has no DNA evidence linking Ward to the nanny, nor do they have any fingerprints of him at the scene. The nanny also failed to notice two tattoos, including a large image of a tiger, on Ward’s body. The nanny also described a man much older than Ward, and picked a different man in a photo line up.

Moran also reminded the jury that police had identified two other suspects of interest in the case before zeroing in on Ward.

Moran asked Federico if she was concerned there was no definitive proof her client is the person who committed the crime. Federico said she was confident they arrested the right man and that victims don’t always remember specific details.

“The victim was in fear the whole time,” Federico said. “She didn’t remember everything.”

Federico countered Moran’s claim by telling the jury Ward was identified as the man in the surveillance video. He is also seen wearing the same hat in the video that his ex-girlfriend is wearing in a photo of her and Ward at the lake.

Ward’s preference for massaging oil on women’s backsides also fits his pattern of behavior.

The defendant is also accused of getting into an altercation with someone, where Ward allegedly flashed a knife he was carrying, wrapped in a T-shirt. He is accused of doing the same to the nanny.

Ward is charged with 12 felonies, including sexual assault, robbery and kidnapping. He faces life in prison if found guilty on all charges.