The Navy officer who faked his own death to get out of an affair

In a pathetically elaborate breakup scheme, a Naval commander pretends to die — and loses his job commanding a nuclear submarine

Naval flag
(Image credit: US Navy)

In August, Navy Cmdr. Michael P. Ward II was given command of his own nuclear submarine — the culmination of a lifelong dream. A week later, he was languishing at a desk job, on his way to an official reprimand for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. His offense? Being a really incompetent adulterer, essentially. Ward, a 43-year-old married father, faked his own death to get out of a relationship with his 23-year-old pregnant mistress. Here's the sordid tale of one man's self-defeatingly elaborate plan to end an affair:

What do we know about this relationship?

According to the Navy's investigation, obtained by the AP Sept. 18 under a Freedom of Information Act request, and the unidentified woman's earlier account in the Connecticut newspaper The Day, Ward (then a Virginia resident) met his lover through an online dating site last October. He initially used the alias Tony Moore, then told her his real name once they met; he claimed he and his wife were separated. He and this new girlfriend hooked up during a visit near her Norfolk, Va., home, and Ward got her pregnant. In July, after he had moved to Connecticut, they met in Washington to discuss the pregnancy. The woman then lost the baby. And then, Ward suddenly "died."

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How did he fake his death?

Over email. Using his own account, but posing as a colleague named "Bob," Ward wrote: "He asked me to contact you if this ever happened. 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."

And how did he get caught?

The woman, with her mother and sister in tow, drove three-and-a-half hours to Ward's Virginia home to offer their condolences. Instead of a grieving family, they found Jon Boyle, the new owner of the Wards' house. "She was very surprised," Boyle tells the AP. "They said they wanted to offer their condolences. I said, 'I don't think he's dead.'" A relative of the mistress then contacted the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. "I don't want revenge here," the woman told The Day in August. "I want everyone to know the truth about Michael. He does not need to be commanding a submarine. He's a deceitful man." On Sept. 5, Ward was slapped with three violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Is this a fireable offense?

Yes. Adultery, not to mention being a jerk — or, in military code, engaging in "conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman" — violate military rules. "The Navy doesn't kid around with its leadership," Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) tells the AP. "These positions, to command submarines, are very competitive and I think the Navy is right to hold people to the highest standard." Besides, says Nicole Fabian-Weber at The Stir, he sounds like a spineless idiot. Would you really want to put your multimillion-dollar attack sub, much less your life, in the hands of a man undone by his lack of courage to tell his mistress "he just wasn't that into her"?

Sources: AP, The Day, Los Angeles Times, Navy Times, NineMSN, The Stir

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