Man accused of taking wife with dementia to fair on leash, 'yanking' it when she wandered

A Maryland man was arrested Saturday at a Pennsylvania fair after witnesses said he yanked a leash attached to his mentally impaired wife’s neck so hard it caused her head to snap back and left red marks around her throat, police said.

Walter William Wolford Sr., 66, of Hagerstown, is charged with simple assault. He was released Sunday on $5,000 unsecured bail, court records show.

The York Daily Record reported that Wolford went to the York Fair Saturday with his wife, who he said suffers from dementia. While there, Wolford led the woman around on a dog-type leash about 8 feet long, charging documents obtained by the newspaper stated.

A witness told West Manchester Township police officers, who were called to the fair shortly before 4 p.m. Saturday, that Wolford "had yanked that leash when all of the slack had gone out of it, causing her head to move backwards and for her to sustain red marks around her throat area," the Daily Record reported the documents stated.

Paramedics were called to check Wolford’s wife out, at which point police officers observed her, the Daily Record reported.

"She was very disoriented, did not know where she was (or) her own name, and spoke gibberish," the charging documents stated.

Wolford told officers that his wife has suffered from dementia for about five years, three years longer than doctors had expected her to live. According to the Daily Record, he said she wandered off at last year's York Fair and was missing for about 90 minutes before she was found trying to leave the fairgrounds.

Wolford said he decided to use a leash to keep her from wandering away this year, the newspaper said.

"Walter told me that he originally placed the leash around her waist, but somehow it had moved up around her neck and when she walked away from him and (when) all of the slack became taut, he 'gently tugged on the leash so she would stop,'" an officer wrote in the charging documents.

Investigators wrote that they spoke to the couple's son, Walter Wolford Jr., who "did not offer much info in this case" but said his father was not abusive to his mother, the Daily Record reported.

The annual York Fair, billed as "America's First Fair," is held every September in York. It began in 1765, 11 years before America's founding, as a two-day agricultural market on the town commons, the fair's website states.

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