ORLANDO, Florida (AP) — A millionaire developer who lived in the same central Florida neighborhood as Tiger Woods and other celebrities was convicted Saturday of murdering his wife in their mansion.
The six jurors deliberated almost 12 hours over two days before finding Bob Ward guilty of second-degree murder after a two-week trial.
Ward was stoic as the verdict was read. Before the verdict, he hugged his two college-aged daughters as the women wept.
He faces up to life in prison when he’s sentenced in November.
Ward was accused of shooting his wife, Diane, in September 2009.The slaying happened days before she was to give a deposition in a lawsuit alleging that he blew millions of dollars on big houses and expensive cars while his business failed.
During closing arguments Thursday, prosecutor Robin Wilkinson used Ward’s own words against him by playing an emergency call to police in which he told a dispatcher five times, “I just shot my wife.”
The Wards were under tremendous stress from the bankruptcy of his company and a lawsuit over his business practices. A broken wine glass, a wine stain on the patio and a similar stain on Ward’s shirt indicated they had been fighting before Diane Ward died, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Kirk Kirkconnell told jurors it was against Bob Ward’s interests to kill his wife because her death exposed his assets to his creditors.
Bob Ward’s company, Land Resource, filed for bankruptcy almost a year before the shooting. He was being sued by an insurance company that accused him of taking more than $20 million from the sale of lots in subdivisions he was building in Tennessee in 2007. The insurance company, which had issued bonds for the subdivisions, said Ward should have used the money to improve the subdivisions, but instead paid off debts and went on a spending spree.
The lawsuit says the Wards used the money to buy their 8,800-square-foot (817-square-meter) mansion in Isleworth, the same neighborhood where Woods had the notorious sport utility vehicle crash that revealed his adultery and derailed his golf career.
The lawsuit also says the Wards paid off loans totaling nearly $2.5 million for two houses in Georgia, bought a house on the Georgia coast for $750,000 and purchased several vehicles, including a $140,000 Mercedes-Benz sedan. The lawsuit was dismissed last month because of a lack of action by either side.
Ward’s behavior after his arrest also raised eyebrows. A jailhouse video of a visit from his daughter and sister-in-law just days after the shooting showed him cracking jokes and laughing. But the Wards’ two daughters have supported their father and were in the courtroom during the trial.