A North Carolina man who’s facing two murder charges told investigators that he “was overtaken by demons” when he killed his estranged wife and teenage stepdaughter.
According to a search warrant reviewed by NBC affiliate WITN, Jeffrey Ward told investigators that he went to a residence in Williamston, a small North Carolina town, to talk to his wife, but the two got in a fight outside the home.
Jeffrey Ward killed Dawnn Ward, 40, and her daughter, Taylor Carroll, 14, after the argument escalated, investigators said.
During an interview Nov. 30, two days after the mother and daughter were reported missing, Jeffrey Ward told investigators that “he screwed up and he killed them during one of his blackout episodes, where he was overtaken by demons,” WITN reported.
Lt. Drew Robinson of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office told The Washington Post that Dawnn Ward’s mother, Debbie Jones, reported them missing Nov. 28. At that point, Jones had not seen them since the night before, Robinson said.
Investigators found the victims’ bodies three days later in a well outside the same residence in Williamston. The well was about 40 feet deep and had about 30 feet of water, Robinson said.
Citing the search warrant, WNCT 9 reported that Jeffrey Ward told investigators he had wrapped the bodies in a blanket.
Dawnn Ward had been stabbed once in the chest, while her daughter was stabbed multiple times in the same area, according to the state’s medical examiner’s office.
Jeffrey Ward, 25, has been charged with two counts of murder and is being held without a bond. Authorities also have arrested his younger brother, Jerrett Ward, 24, and charged him with two counts of accessory after the fact to murder. He’s being held on a $1 million bond.
Local media outlets reported on the search warrant Friday. Efforts by The Washington Post to obtain a copy of it were unsuccessful. Robinson said a judge will place the documents under seal.
Robinson declined to share further details, including who owns or lives in the residence where the victims were killed, or the nature of the relationship between Jeffrey and Dawnn Ward. He only said that the two had been separated but did not say for how long.
District Attorney Seth Edwards was not immediately available for comment.
WITN reported that in September 2014, Dawnn Ward obtained a domestic violence protective order against her husband. She said in court records that her husband “grabbed me by the throat” and “strangled me until I passed out.”
“He is dangerous,” she wrote in court records. “He came out and threatened to burn my house and my mother’s house and kill us all.”
Jeffrey Ward was not charged in connection with that incident, according to WITN. The protective order expired last year.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety Records show that Jeffrey Ward’s criminal history, which stretches back to at least 2008, includes convictions for drug possession. In 2015, he was convicted of breaking and entering and larceny.
Although the rate of violent acts committed against women by their spouses or intimate partners declined by 72 percent from 1994 to 2001, federal statistics show that women were more likely to be victims of homicides committed by their intimate partners.
Nearly 40 percent of the 3,032 homicides involving female victims in 2010 were committed by their intimate partners, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Of the 10,878 homicides involving male victims, only 3 percent were committed by their intimate partners, according to the federal agency’s data.
From 2002 to 2011, more than half of violent acts committed against women involved prior threats.