A motion filed by the attorny for Brandon Ward, convicted in the 2006 slaying of Joey Hall and attack on Joey Ruinato, was denied Wednesday in a Santa Rosa County courtroom. For complete story on Wednesday's hearing, see the Santa Rosa Press Gazette Saturday edition, on stands late Friday. Original story below.
In 2006, a young Milton man was stabbed to death. In 2007, another was sentenced to life in prison for that crime. Now the convicted man, Brandon Michael Ward, 26, wants a shorter sentence. His request is set to be heard Wednesday.
Ward was arrested in June 2006, charged with the stabbing death of Joey Hall and the severe stabbing injury of Joseph Allen Ruinato, according to Santa Rosa Sheriff's reports. Ward was originally charged with 1st degree murder and 1st degree attempted murder, court records say.
Ward was an active duty Marine stationed at NAS Pensacola at the time. A jury ultimately convicted him of manslaughter 1st degree; and attempted 2nd degree murder with a weapon or firearm, according to clerk's office records. These convictions were overturned on appeal and Ward was re-tried.
In 2010, he was convicted of the same charges, court records say.
The original case made local headlines. At that time, Sheriff's officials reported that deputies responded to a call of a stabbing at a home in the 6700 block of Munson Hwy. When they arrived, reports note they found two young men with multiple stab wounds and Ward, reportedly, inside the home, threatening suicide.
Ward eventually surrendered and was taken into custody without incident, according to sheriff officials. Hall was treated at the scene for his injuries. Despite treatment efforts, he died. Ruinato was transported in critical condition to a local hospital where he was admitted into intensive care. Ward was taken to the hospital as well, where sheriff's officials say he was treated with non-life threatening injuries.
Santa Rosa Sheriff's reports say the stabbings took place following a disturbance earlier that night that had nothing to do with Hall or Ruinato. Deputies said another male had made advances toward Ward's girlfriend at a party. Court records say Ward was convicted the first time, less than a year later, and sentenced to two 30 year consecutive sentences in prison.
His attorney filed another appeal in 2011 - this time to shorten Ward's time in prison, clerk's records say. Three letters of support for Ward have been filed at the Clerk's Office - all three from people describing themselves as lifelong friends of Ward's family and saying they have known Brandon Ward since he was a child and believe he would do well outside of prison.
The hearing is set for 9 a.m. - originally before Judge Thomas R. Santurri, who is no longer assigned to Santa Rosa County. A new judge had not been named for the case at press time. Assistant State Attorney James Parker says two hours have been set aside for the hearing. This, Park said leads him to believe there could be "a lot of testimony". The Assistant State Attorney prosecuting the case, Bobby Elmore, could not be reached for comment.