Asheville woman pleads guilty to assault charges in the beating that left a homeless man dead

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Joy Hood
Joy Hood

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — An Asheville woman pleaded guilty in New Hanover County Superior Court Tuesday in connection with the the death of 51-year-old Donald Ward.

Joy Hood, 34, pleaded guilty to a charge of assault with a deadly weapon and inflicting serious injury in the incident that killed Ward on Feb. 1, 2015, according to a notice from District Attorney Ben David.

Her co-defendant in the case, Stacey Brown, had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Read related story: Homeless man pleads guilty to February 2015 murder

Hood and Brown were living in Wilmington at a homeless camp behind a gas station at the corner of Medical Center Drive and Carolina Beach Road. The victim stopped by the camp to get an article of clothing he left on prior occasion.

Ward stayed to drink beer and sit around a fire pit. In the early morning hours of Feb. 1, 2015, a verbal and physical altercation occurred involving Ward. Brown and Hood kicked and punched Ward in the head and body at least 20 times, David said.

“Ward never moved during this time, nor did he ever regain consciousness,” David said.

Brown dragged ward over to the area of the camp used to dump trash, covered his body with a tarp and “left him to die,” David said. Brown and Hood’s camp mate, who was also at the camp fire, called 911 for help.

An autopsy revealed that Ward died from blunt force trauma, consistent with being hit, kicked, or stomped.

“Ward had no defensive injuries or wounds and never regained consciousness after the initial injury to his head,” David said.

Stacey Brown prison mug shot.
Stacey Brown prison mug shot.

An examination of Hood’s clothing revealed blood, but the test ultimately indicated it was Hood’s own blood, not Ward’s, Assistant District Attorney Janet Coleman said.

 “Hood was wearing tennis shoes and Brown, who is much larger in stature than Hood, was wearing heavy boots. It would have been difficult to prove that Hood inflicted the same degree of deadly damage that Brown did,” Coleman said.

Superior Court Judge Ebern T. Watson sentenced Hood to 23-40 months in the North Carolina Department of Corrections. Brown was sentenced in July 2016 to 28-36 years in prison.