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Man who beheaded mom had psychiatric history

The man who beheaded his mother and then walked in front of a train had served a jail sentence in 2006 after being caught with a gun and drugs.

By Frances Burns

FARMINGDALE, N.Y., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Neighbors in a New York suburb heard no disturbance before a man with a history of mental illness left his mother's decapitated body in the street, police said.

Derek Ward, 35, killed himself by walking in front of a Long Island Railroad train Tuesday evening in Farmingdale.

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Patricia Ward's headless body had been in the street for about 7 minutes when police came to the scene. Investigators said the 66-year-old college professor was killed in the apartment she shared with her son and the body then dragged out.

Some neighbors said they believed at first the body was a Halloween dummy. They were shaken by the knowledge it was real.

"Who gets beheaded?" Barbara Smalls asked the New York Daily News. "Who does that? You have to be a monster to do that ...I'm thinking about moving now."

Nassau County Police Lt. John Azzata, commander of the homicide squad, said Patricia Ward had been stabbed several times, possibly with a knife investigators found in the apartment. Neighbors said they heard nothing of a quarrel or an attack.

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"Her body was removed from the apartment by, we believe, her son Derek and placed in the street," Azzata said.

Police said Derek Ward had a history of mental illness. He was sentenced to probation in 2003 for criminal mischief, and to a short jail term and probation in 2006 after he was arrested while carrying a gun and 100 valium pills.

Patricia Ward taught at the Long Island Opportunity Center of Farmingdale State College, where she had been employed for almost 30 years. Patrick Calabria, a college official, said she helped high school students prepare for college.

"She was well-liked, well-known and well-respected," said Calabria, vice president of institutional advancement at the college. "It's a tough day here. She was very passionate and devoted and loved working with students."

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