When neighbors saw the headless body of Patricia Ward, 66 of Farmingdale, New York lying in the street in front of her home at about 8:00 Tuesday night they first thought that it was a Halloween prank. As police were beginning their investigation her 35-year-old son Derek Ward threw himself in front of a Long Island Rail Road commuter train in an apparent murder-suicide.
Ms. Ward was last seen alive at around 4:00 p.m., according to police. She was a well liked assistant professor of language arts at Farmingdale State College where she had worked for 28 years with high school students to prepare them for college.
“She was well-known, well-liked, and well-respected. The campus is a very sad place today,” said Patrick Calabria, a vice president at the college.
Police said that Derek had killed his mother with a knife before decapitating her and dragging her body into the street about 25 minutes before he stepped in front of the eastbound train loaded with commuters on their way home for the day.
Derek Ward had psychiatric problems dating back at least to 2004 which police believe were exacerbated by the death of his paternal grandfather in August of last year, but they said there was no record of any domestic problems in the three months they had lived at that address. They had previously lived in another part of Farmingdale and in nearby Babylon.
Ward did have an arrest record for minor incidents in 2003 and 2006. He was arrested in 2003 for criminal mischief and sentenced to a year of probation. In 2006 he served 45 days in jail and received another 3 years of probation for possession of a handgun and Valium.
Police recovered a knife that they believe was the murder weapon inside the second floor apartment that the two shared. In addition to being decapitated, they said that Ms. Ward suffered broken bones and several stab wounds.
Watch a report on the murder, below: