Onzlee Ware Passes Away

February 11, 2024

Onzlee Ware had recently been facing allegations of inappropriate behavior.

The Roanoke Circuit Court Judge and former Delegate won't have to worry about those allegations anymore.

He's dead.

Ware passed away at age 70 on Saturday, February 10.

The American politician had been elected to the Virginia House of Delegates back in November of 2003.

He held that position for ten years, until he announced his resignation from the House of Delegates in November 2013, citing family issues.

A year later, on September 18, 2014, he was sworn in as the chief judge for Roanoke County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, in the 23rd Judicial District of Virginia.

Delegate Sam Rasoul, a Democrat from Roanoke, shared a tribute to the judge:

"Rest In Peace Onzlee Ware. Throwback to after my first primary election. Onzlee told me when I get down to Richmond, I will need to work with both sides of the aisle. Thank you for your years of service to our community."

Ware had been facing pretty serious allegations lately.

VERY serious.

The mother of a defendant in a recent murder case that Ware was overseeing recently claimed that "Ware had offered to assist in her son’s case in exchange for a sexual relationship."

Ware's team did not agree.

Ware's attorney's released a statement refuting the allegations:

We recently spoke of how critically important Judge Ware was to his family, the Court, and to our community. Today, we are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend, a great father, grandfather, thoughtful and committed Judge of our Circuit Court, and devoted and respected former member of the Virginia House of Delegates. Judge Ware was a man of great achievement who overcame remarkable obstacles to become the first African American Circuit Court Judge appointed by the General Assembly to the Roanoke Circuit Court. Even with these achievements, he remained dedicated to his community and was a mentor to many young people in Roanoke.

Recently, we had the privilege of helping Judge Ware navigate the Virginia system for dealing with certain claims made by an individual. Following that process, we believe it is important to Judge Ware’s legacy and to his family, as well as his community, that certain elements of the statutory notification sent to the claimant, which has been publicly reported, be set forth. Among them are the following:

A.The evidence fails to corroborate any claim that Judge Ware intervened with the presiding court in the criminal case of Timothy Church. The evidence obtained by the Commission demonstrates that Judge Ware did not contact the trial judge in this matter as had been claimed in the declaration accompanying the habeas corpus petition filed in Timothy Church v. Director. (CL22001711-00).

B. The evidence obtained by the Commission fails to corroborate the claim that Judge Ware played a role in the court’s appointment of attorney Patrick Kenney to represent Timothy Church at sentencing in his criminal case. Again, the fulsome evidence obtained by the Commission in this regard demonstrates that Judge Ware was not involved in the process by which the court appointed Mr. Kenney to represent Timothy Church.

C. Notwithstanding the assertion that Judge Ware called former Roanoke Sheriff Tim Allen in the presence of Timothy Church’s mother, Grace Church, to inquire about the health and well-being of Mr. Church during his incarceration in the Roanoke jail, in light of its investigation into this matter, the Commission has determined that this allegation lacks credibility.

D. The Commission’s investigation failed to obtain credible evidence demonstrating that any sexual relationship between Judge Ware and Grace Church was entered into pursuant to a quid pro quo understanding, in exchange for the judge’s assistance with Timothy Church’s criminal case.

Judge Ware’s family deeply appreciates the tremendous gestures of love and support they have received over the last months. It has been an honor to work with our friend, who taught all of us humility, including in the face of adversity. May he rest in peace.

John Lichtenstein and Tony Anderson

Counsel to the Honorable Onzlee Ware, Judge.

What do you think about this story?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Regardless of what you think about the allegations, there's no doubt that his passing has caused his loved ones much grief.

Our prayers and hearts go out to those affected on both sides of this tragedy.

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