Published September 18. 2012 3:00PM Updated September 19. 2012 12:00AM
Groton — Navy Cmdr. Michael P. Ward II violated the military's criminal code by having an eight-month affair with a 23-year-old Virginia woman and faking his death as a means of ending the affair, the Navy said Tuesday.
Ward, who led the Groton-based USS Pittsburgh for one week, violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice articles on dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming of an officer and adultery, Rear Adm. Richard P. Breckenridge, commander of Submarine Group Two, determined at an admiral's mast.
Ward received a punitive letter of reprimand. He is assigned to administrative duties at the submarine group.
Ward's deception and dishonesty in developing, maintaining and attempting to end the relationship were "egregious" and inconsistent with the Navy's expectations of an officer, especially one entrusted with command of a naval warship and its crew, Capt. Vernon Parks, commander of Submarine Development Squadron 12 in Groton, wrote in a memo concurring with the findings of the command investigation into Ward's personal misconduct.
A copy of the investigation was obtained by The Day Tuesday following a Freedom of Information Act request. Both Ward and the woman gave similar accounts of their relationship to investigators, the report said.
The woman, who had not yet seen the report, said "wow" several times as a reporter told her of its contents Tuesday. She had spoken with The Day when Ward was relieved of command of the Pittsburgh and provided copies of text messages and emails from Ward, as well as photos.
"What a mess. I'm glad the report doesn't have my name in it and that he, at least, owned up to everything, but wow," said the Chesapeake, Va., woman, who does not want to be identified because she does not want to jeopardize her career in the banking industry.
She said she has not had any contact with Ward since immediately after he was relieved Aug. 10. Ward waived his rights prior to his interview with the investigator and submitted a written statement.
The two met on a dating website in October. Ward, 43, who is married with children, told her he was separated and that he worked in "special ops," she said. He actually worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.
They saw each other during the week while he attended the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., and spent a weekend together in Williamsburg, Va., in November, the report said. They spoke over the phone and emailed through June.
Ward sent her emails using the name Tony Moore, explaining that he had to use the name because of his position in the special forces, she said.
In March, he wrote, "we are forever nothing will stop that." She said she loved him.
In the last email before Ward faked his death, "Tony Moore" wrote on June 23, "You look absolutely gorgeous!!!!! Miss you like crazy. I was out doing things - have to go back out tomorrow. Hope you got the window fixed!!!! I love you like crazy."
Then, on July 6, in an effort to end the relationship, Ward sent an email from a fictitious co-worker, Bob, who claimed that Ward had unexpectedly died.
"He asked me to contact you if this ever happened," the email says. "I am extremely sorry to tell you that he is gone. We tried everything we could to save him. I cannot say more. I am sorry it has to be this way."
The email goes on to say, "He loved you very much."
The woman drove with her sister and mother to Ward's house in Burke, Va., three days later to pay her respects and learned from the new owner that Ward was alive and had moved to Connecticut to take command of a submarine.
The two started talking again after Ward moved to Gales Ferry and learned she was pregnant, the report said. He met with her in late July when he was in Washington, D.C., for medical appointments to discuss how to handle the pregnancy.
Soon after, she lost the baby and the relationship ended, the report said. She sent a text message July 24, "I feel thrown away. I feel worthless." The reply said, "Please don't feel that, that is not it at all, I am so sorry." On July 27, she texted to say her sister had spoken with a Navy judge advocate.
The admiral's mast, an administrative proceeding for disciplinary offenses, was held Sept. 5. Ward received nonjudicial punishment, which is a disciplinary measure more serious than administrative corrective measures but less serious than a trial by court martial.
Cmdr. Michael Savageaux, who led the submarine before Ward assumed command Aug. 3, is in charge of the Pittsburgh until a permanent relief can be found.
Ward could not be reached to comment Tuesday on his cellphone. He previously declined to comment on the matter.
The woman on Tuesday said she is moving on but will be much more cautious in choosing whom she dates next.
"I feel better. Things have been really good for me at work and my family has been very supportive," she said. "I'm trying to just get over him and what happened. It's not going to happen overnight by any means."