Murder charged in Saranac Lake

SARANAC LAKE – Police say a local man was beaten and stabbed to death Monday inside an apartment building in an otherwise quiet residential neighborhood on Morris Way – the first murder case the village has seen in more than nine years.

Ward Guy Wilbur, 65, was found deceased at 19 Morris Way by village police Chief Bruce Nason and two of his officers just after 11 a.m., Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne said during a Monday night press conference at the village offices.

Angela Ball, 29, of 1951 state Route 86, was still at the scene when police responded and was subsequently arrested. She will be charged with second-degree murder at an arraignment Monday night in village court. Champagne said he’ll ask the judge to send Ball to the Franklin County Jail in Malone without bail.

Asked why Ball will be charged with second-degree murder, Champagne said, “That’s what fits as far as intentional homicide.”

The DA said Wilbur died of blunt-force trauma and stab wounds. He wouldn’t say what Ball allegedly struck Wilbur with or where. He also wouldn’t reveal how many times he was stabbed, where or with what. An autopsy has yet to be conducted, Champagne said.

Wilbur had lived in Lake Placid, but Champagne said police are still verifying where he had been living recently, possibly at what the DA described as a “more local residence.”

Nason said the incident took place in a ground-level apartment in the building, which is owned by Bob Decker. However, neither Ball nor Wilbur was a tenant of the apartment building where they were found, the chief and the prosecutor said. They also wouldn’t say if there were any witnesses to the killing.

The motive for the alleged murder remains unclear, as well as the connection between Wilbur and Ball and other circumstances surrounding the case. Champagne said few details are being released at this point because police don’t want to jeopardize the investigation.

“It’s too early for us to get into those specifics,” Champagne said. “We obviously believe we have an understanding of what transpired, but releasing those details at this time would be premature.”

Asked if anyone else was involved, Champagne said police don’t believe so. He said the public is not at risk.

“This appears to be an isolated incident, and the person which law enforcement believe is responsible is in custody,” the DA said.

Earlier Monday night, Champagne and Nason met with village Justice Kenneth McLaughlin behind closed doors in the Harrietstown Town Hall for about 30 minutes. When they emerged, Nason said police had obtained a search warrant, but he didn’t elaborate. Police later seized a car from the property, although Champagne wouldn’t say why it was taken.

Village and state police were parked outside the apartment house throughout the day. A string of yellow crime-scene tape was stretched across a section of the dead-end road, in front of the apartment house, when the Enterprise visited the site early Monday afternoon. A state police helicopter was seen hovering over the property late Monday afternoon. Nason said it was used to take aerial pictures of the site. Neighbors reported seeing a police K-9 unit searching the area, but the chief said he wasn’t aware of a K-9 unit being used in the investigation.

A Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad ambulance went to the scene around 11 a.m., but Wilbur was not taken to the hospital. A coroner subsequently responded, Nason said.

A state police crime scene investigation unit was still processing the scene late Monday night. Nason said he wasn’t sure if Wilbur’s body had been removed from the apartment yet.

The chief said more information about the case will be released when it’s appropriate.

“This is going to be a lengthy investigation,” Nason said.

This is the first murder case in the village since 2004, when Nicholas Morris was arrested in the shaking death of his 15-day-old son. He later pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison. He’s still behind bars at the maximum-security Eastern Correctional Facility in Ulster County.

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.