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Maureen Ward Cleared In 2003 Arson Case

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2012 7:00 am |  Updated: 10:38 am, Thu Feb 14, 2013.
Danielle Battaglia
It was a court case almost 10 years in the making.

In the end, a Rockingham County woman was cleared of arson charges.

Titus Plomaritis and his ex-wife Maureen Ward’s 531 River Ridge Roadhome was set on fire Nov. 30, 2003, according to documents obtained from the Rockingham County Clerk of Courts office. The fire was ruled an arson, which originated on the couple’s bed, according to the documents.

Ward wasn’t indicted in this case until May 2010. She was then charged with obtaining property by false pretense greater, equal or less than $100,000, setting fire to ones own dwelling and insurance fraud.

Attorney Robert O’Hale defended Maureen in week long jury trial.

On August 3, Ward was found not guilty on all three of these charges in the Rockingham County Courthouse.

How the case came to be

Court documents explained how the 2003 arson case was reopened.

The case was closed in 2003, according to court documents. It was reopened in 2009, after Pomaritis’s attorney, Bob Weckworth, asked State Bureau of Investigations Agent Gerald Thomas to sign an affidavit Weckworth had prepared implicating Ward of the 2003 fire and two fires set in 2007.

Plomaritis had three fires set, two at his home onBramblegate Drive, both in 2007, and a second at the River Ridge Roadhome in 2009. There was also vandalism to the Bramblegate home in 2007, according to court documents.

Ward lived in Boston,Mass., at the time of the other three fires.

Plomaritis and his attorney, Bob Weckworth, weren’t satisfied with a judge’s 2008 ruling of a 2004 case regarding the distribution of $2.6 million in assets to both Plomartiis and Ward. Weckworth filed a motion to reconsider the decision and for him to provide evidence of the 2003 and 2007 fires.

Weckworth consulted with the State Bureau of Investigation and investigated the 2007 fire, delaying the case for a year.

Plomaritis complained to the SBI about the agent over the 2003 case, Patrick Whatley. Whatley was later terminated from his position. Whatley was asked to testify in a pre-trial motions in both 2011 and 2012, but due to post traumatic stress disorder, was unable to recall the investigation.

At this point, the 2003 case was reopened and Plomaritis was interviewed.

Agent Gerald Thomas of the SBI signed an affidavit prepared by Weckworth in 2009, implicating Ward of the 2003 and 2007 fires, which would be used in this case. Despite the case being reopened, the judge didn’t change his mind in the equitable distribution case from 2004.

Documents also explained why Ward was cleared of the 2007 fires. Weckworth viewed security footage of this event, which showed his own client, John Thomas Walden, had set that fire. Weckworth was representing him in a cocaine case in Guilford County, while still investigating the Plomaritis fires.

Plomaritis wrote a letter on July 23, 2008 to District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. saying he had no objection to Walden receiving immunity if he cooperated in the case. Walden was brought before Berger, by Weckworth and said Thadford Fuller told him Rocky Manning wanted the home burned.

According to court documents Weckworth was quite involved in the fire investigations and exchanged emails with Thomas reflecting his desire for Ward to be accused in the 2007 fires.

In a 2010 affidavit, Tommy Curry, Rockingham County Deputy Fire Marshal said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge anyone in any of the cases.

Berger refused to prosecute the arson cases, twice in 2009 and Weckworth wrote in a letter he was displeased with how the case was handled and Berger’s conduct “amounted to prosecutorial misconduct and a conflict of interest that Mr. Weckworth would pursue all avenues of recourse including assignment of a special prosecutor,” according to court documents.

In January 2011, Plomaritis and Jan sued Ward, Manning and Fuller accusing them for the fires and damages in 2007, further damage to the River Ridge home, as well as, other damages to Greensboro National Golf Course, which Plomaritis and his family owned. They took a voluntary dismissal of this lawsuit in June, 2011.

Leading up to the fire

Ward decided to separate from Plomaritis on July 25, 2003, as a result of no longer wanting to live with him and also wanting better for her four children — Jarrod, Evan and Sean Plomaritis, as well as Molly, who now goes by the surname of ConCannon, according to court documents.

During Plomaritis’s deposition it was revealed despite their separation, the two remained in an intimate relationship. On Nov. 5, 2003, he started dating his current wife, Jan Plomaritis and became intimate with her.

ConCannon played an integral role in the events of Nov. 30, 2003. The day prior, she and her father returned home from a golf tournament inMyrtle Beach,S.C., according to Plomaritis’s deposition. Documents show ConCannon was 11 years old at the time.

Plomaritis was to drop Concannon off at Ward’s Greensboro home, where her aunt and grandmother were waiting to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday together. However, Plomaritis took his daughter home toEdeninstead.

Ward attempted to contact her daughter and was unable to do so until 2 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2003 according to court documents. Plomaritis testified he couldn’t remember if he had called his ex-wife or not on the way home from the beach. When Ward finally reached him, he said they were too tired to come toGreensboro.

Jan testified saying she received a call; ConCannon wanted to see her and the three made plans for dinner. They went to the movie and phone calls were exchanged between ConCannon, Plomaritis and Ward.

ConCannon called Ward from a theatre inDanville, where she was seeing “Gothika” with Plomaritis and Jan. She was upset, court documents show.

Danville Police Officer Lindsay Gilbert testified in the case as a witnessed to what occurred in the theatre on Nov. 30, 2003. Gilbert was working as hired security there for overtime pay.

Gilbert testified seeing the pair on the phone and seemingly angry. She witnessed them hang up and Plomaritis say, “If her mother wants to spend time with her she need to let me know. It’s not my problem.”

Gilbert testified to hearing ConCannon say, later, on the phone, “It’s not my fault, he hung up.”

Gilbert said she witnessed Ward and Evan walk out of the theatre with ConCannon. Plomaritis was close behind. Feeling this was a domestic situation, Gilbert followed and witnessed Plomaritis grab toward Ward and Ward hit Plomaritis with her purse.

Gilbert said she heard Ward accuse Plomaritis of stealing ConCannon. She asked Ward to leave and Plomaritis to go back in the movie. As Ward left, Gilbert said he turned to her and said, “You saw this. You’re my witness. You see she is crazy.”

In a 2009 deposition, Ward testified to what happened next. She said ConCannon wanted to get her overnight bag from the River Ridge home, the couple once shared and Plomaritis still lived in.

On the way to the home from the theatre, the trio stopped at a Texaco and purchased Chapstick, water, soda and a lighter and cigarettes for Ward’s sister, who she said in the deposition, was a big smoker.

She said she stopped to make sure Plomaritis wasn’t following them home.

Upon arrival to the home, Ward went straight to the master bathroom, out of habit. She then went to the exercise room to play with a bird and then took the bird into the kitchen. Ward testified she was in the home for 10 minutes and never walked into the bedroom.

They left together, though ConCannon ran back into the home to grab something she had forgot, making her the last one inside. Ward said the home was not on fire when they left.

Meanwhile, Plomaritis and Jan went back to her home to grab some clothing before proceeding back toRiver Ridge Road, according to Jan’s testimony. When they arrived home they saw it in flames and Jan testified to accusing Ward of setting the fire. Jan said she made the accusation because Ward had been trying to rectify her situation with Plomaritis and she had just found out about her.

During cross examination, Jan was reminded of a statement she had made to Detective Greg Harris of the Reidsville Police Department. She said she and Ward were good friends and everyone knew about her and Plomaritis.

Jan said she wasn’t sure if Plomaritis or ConCannon had told Ward about herself, but Ward was good friends with Jan’s cousin.

She also testified to being unaware of whether or not she had blown out candles the night before. She knew she blew one of them out but couldn’t remember how many were lit.