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William Ward of Bethlehem pleads guilty to murdering, dismembering girlfriend Trisha Sadler

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 07 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 09 2012 08:40:29 AM CDT

Just as his trial was set to begin Monday, a Bethlehem man pleaded guilty to murdering his longtime girlfriend, then chopping her body into pieces.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Just as his trial was set to begin Monday, a Bethlehem man pleaded guilty to murdering his longtime girlfriend, then chopping her body into pieces. Now, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

William Ward, 46, admitted in court to slitting longtime girlfriend Trisha Sadler's throat before dismembering her body and stuffing it into garbage bags inside their bedroom. The crime happened on Cloverdale Road in June of 2011.

Sadler's family said they never knew the relationship was abusive.

"We accepted this man into our family, and we had no idea," said Trisha's father, Michael Sadler.

But just two weeks before her death, Sadler did tell a friend that Ward threatened to kill her. When Sadler didn't show up for work two days in a row, Bethlehem Police came to the couple's home, where Ward attacked them with barbells after a five-hour standoff.

Monday, Ward pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, accepting a life prison sentence with no possibility of parole. When he was arrested, Ward was on probation for a previous aggravated assault from 1993. He served six years in prison.

"We're glad that justice has been served, yes," said Michael Sadler. "We'll never be glad of the outcome of this whole thing."

In court, Sadler's mother, Diane, said life in prison is "a walk in the park compared to the torment this monster put us through."

She added: "My nightmares are awful ... I hope his are even worse.''

Friends said Sadler was preparing to leave Ward after nine years together. He had previously assaulted her, prosecutors said in court, and had been out of work for months. Sadler financially supported him.

"The evidence was overwhelming," said Michael Sadler. "Our daughter was ready to leave, and I think he realized that his gravy train was about to end."

Ward pleaded "guilty but mentally ill" to first degree murder, a distinction that does not change his sentence, but makes Ward eligible for mental health treatment in prison. A defense expert found that Ward suffers from schizophrenia and paranoia, which he now takes medication for.

In court, Ward's lawyer said his client remembers very little about the attack, but admits he was not legally insane at the time.