GRASS VALLEY, Calif., — Kenneth Pestana, found dead last week on his property, was discovered with multiple deep cuts to his neck with no knife nearby, a Nevada County, Calif., affidavit states.
That discovery, and a series of witness interviews, led Nevada County authorities to name Joseph Ward, 31, as a suspect. Ward and Pestana, 61, knew each other and interviews revealed Ward had been at Pestana’s home in the days before Pestana’s June 7 death, according to the affidavit obtained by the Nevada Appeal.
That connection surprised Pestana’s daughter, who told authorities she believed her father disliked Ward, the report states.
Arrested in Nevada about a day after Pestana’s discovery and held in the Carson City Jail, Ward awaits extradition to Nevada County.
According to the affidavit, authorities responded around 10:30 p.m. June 7 to Pestana’s home in the 22000 block of Highway 20, about 10 miles northeast of Nevada City. Pestana’s girlfriend had found him dead on their property. Detectives responded, saw Pestana and found no cutting device nearby.
“Deputies eventually arrived on scene and confirmed there was, in fact, a deceased male subject with a large open laceration to his throat, lying in a pool of his own blood,” the court document states.
A series of interviews with people who live on the property revealed a man named “Joey” — later identified as Ward — arrived at the property three days before Pestana’s death with his girlfriend and her teen daughter. The girlfriend and daughter left the following day, leaving Ward without a vehicle, the affidavit states.
On June 7, the day Pestana’s girlfriend found his body, she woke around 8:30 a.m. when Ward entered her travel trailer. Ward said he needed the garage door opener and left shortly afterward, the report states.
Later that day a neighbor told the girlfriend Pestana’s dog was found off his leash in the driveway. The neighbor and girlfriend then saw Ward exiting the one-story cabin where hours later Pestana’s body was found, the report states.
“It should be noted this is (the) cabin ‘Joey’ stayed in while he was at the property for those several days,” the affidavit states. “They asked ‘Joey’ where Kenneth was and he told them Kenneth had gotten a ride with someone in a truck.”
At some point Ward said he would take Pestana’s dog for a walk. Property residents noticed later Ward, the dog and Pestana’s 2000 blue Hyundai Accent were missing, the court document states.
Seeing several of Pestana’s personal items in the home, the girlfriend left for Nevada City with two others to call him. She received no answer and returned to the house after dark. They saw lights at the single-story cabin and, thinking it odd, decided to go inside, the report states.
According to the affidavit, they entered through the side door — finding later the front door was barricaded — and found Pestana’s body.
Authorities then responded and notified Pestana’s next-of-kin, who live in Gardnerville. Deputies asked them about “Joey,” and they said that person could be Ward. Officers then received a picture of Ward from Nevada state authorities and showed it to Pestana’s girlfriend and others, who identified him as “Joey,” the report states.
Authorities took Ward into custody less than 24 hours later in Carson City.