Competency trial set for May in Joseph Ward murder case |

Competency trial set for May in Joseph Ward murder case

by Alan Riquelmy
Grass Valley Union
Joseph Ward

A May 8 trial has been set in Grass Valley, Calif., to determine if one former Gardnerville resident was competent when he allegedly killed another.

Kenneth Pestana, 62, was found dead June 7, 2017, in his Nevada County home, located about 10 miles northeast of Nevada City.

The following day, Gardnerville resident Joseph Ward, 32, was arrested in Carson City after authorities found Pestana’s car in front of Ward’s mother apartment.

In 2004, Ward participated in a demonstration of Pestana’s innocence when the older man was accused of several charges.

At a preliminary hearing, a detective testified that Pestana introduced Ward as “his son, of sorts” to a neighbor about two days before his death. However, he also thought Ward had stolen lottery tickets from him just days before he was found dead, Detective Andrew Liller said.

A doctor’s report states murder suspect Joseph Ward is incompetent.

Prosecutors must prove to a jury that Ward, 32, was competent at the time of Pestana’s death.

If they prevail, Ward will then proceed to trial on the murder charge. If not, he’d be transferred to a state hospital in an attempt to restore his competency.

Under California law, being incompetent is different from being insane.

“We’re also going to explore the possibility of getting our own doctor appointed on the case,” Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said.

Attorneys discussed the recent report in front of Superior Court Judge Tom Anderson, who set aside concerns of the public defender and opted to set a trial date. Deputy Public Defender Thomas Angell, standing in for Ward’s defense attorney, said he wanted to delay setting a date out of concern over potential witness scheduling conflicts.

Anderson said he wanted the case to move forward.

“Estimated time — I’m thinking three to five days,” the judge said of the trial’s length.

Authorities claim Ward, who refused to go to court on Friday, killed the 62-year-old Pestana on the older man’s property.

Reach Alan Riquelmy at or 530-477-4239.