Man accused of injuring ailing wife while leading her on leash at York Fair

Christopher Dornblaser
York Dispatch
Walter Wolford

A Maryland man is accused of injuring his wife, who has dementia, while leading her on a leash through the York Fair over the weekend, according to police.

West Manchester Township Police say Walter William Wolford Sr. told authorities that the leash was initially around his wife's waist but it somehow got around her neck. 

Wolford, 66, of Hagerstown, is charged with simple assault.

Allegations: Officer Bradley Cleck was called to the York Fair just before 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, for an assault report.

According to police, Wolford had been walking around the fairgrounds with his wife and he had her on an 8-foot, nylon "dog-style" leash. The leash, officials said, was around her neck, and he had yanked the leash when all the slack had gone out of it.

That caused his wife's head to move backwards, leaving red marks around her throat, charging documents state.

Police said Wolford's wife was "very disoriented" and didn't know where she was or her own name, and she had difficulty speaking, which Wolford said was because of her advanced dementia.

When Cleck spoke to Wolford, the Maryland man was agitated, repeatedly saying he was embarrassed and angry about the situation, adding that he had already told four or five officers the story, court documents state.

He told Cleck that his wife has late-stage dementia and that a doctor gave her two years to live five years ago, according to authorities.

Wolford said he took his wife to the fair last year without a leash and she wandered away and became lost for more than an hour, officials said. He told police he found her as she was walking out of the fair gates, charging documents state.

After that, Wolford decided he needed something to keep that from happening again, and he came up with the leash idea, police said. He told police he originally placed the leash around her waist, but somehow it had moved up around her neck, according to court documents.

Wolford said when she walked away from him, all the slack became taut, and he "gently tugged on the leash so she would stop," officials said. 

Police spoke to Wolford's son, who was also at the fair, and he did not give much information other than saying he did not think his father was abusive to his mother, charging documents state.

The son took his mother, and Wolford was taken to the county's central booking unit for arraignment, according to police.

Wolford was arraigned on the charges the morning of Sunday, Sept. 16, and he remains free on $5,000 unsecured bail.

Attempts to reach Wolford for comment through a listed phone number the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 18, were unsuccessful. He does not have an attorney listed.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 28 at District Judge Keith Albright's office.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.