Prosecutor: Millionaire admitted to shooting wife

AP News
Posted: Sep 22, 2011 5:35 PM
Prosecutor: Millionaire admitted to shooting wife

A prosecutor trying a millionaire Florida developer on a charge of fatally shooting his wife used the man's own words in an attempt to show jurors that he was guilty of second-degree murder during closing arguments Thursday.

Prosecutor Robin Wilkinson played a 911 recording from September 2010 in which developer Bob Ward tells a dispatcher five times "I just shot my wife."

"Bob Ward in his very own words," Wilkinson said. "Do we really think he doesn't know what he is saying when he says the words, `I just shot my wife?'"

Ward is accused of fatally shooting his wife, Diane, in the face in their multimillion dollar mansion in the neighborhood where golfer Tiger Woods and other celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds have lived. The shooting was days before Diane Ward was to give a deposition in a lawsuit alleging that he blew millions of dollars on big houses and expensive cars while his real estate development company failed.

Defense attorneys say that Ward's wife was suicidal while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs, and that he was trying to stop her from killing herself during a struggle. Defense attorney Kirk Kirkconnell told jurors during closing arguments that prosecutors' case was circumstantial and that there was no evidence to prove their theory.

"She could have been trying to commit suicide. She could be trying to shoot him. Maybe she was trying to throw the gun away," Kirkconnell said. "Anyone of these are possible. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what reasonable doubt is all about."

But Wilkinson discounted that claim, noting that Ward had different explanations for what happened. It went from "I just shot my wife" to "it's a tragic accident" to "Diane killed herself," she said.

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.

Wilkinson said that prosecutors weren't required to show a motive or that Ward intended to kill his wife.

Ward's attorneys didn't call him to the stand during the testimony part of the trial. Kirkconnell told jurors it was against Bob Ward's interests to kill his wife because her death exposed his assets to his creditors.

At one point during closing arguments, Kirkconnell's assistant pointed a ruler between herself and the defense attorney to make the case that it was possible for Diane Ward to shoot herself from a distance of 18 inches.

Kirkconnell asked jurors to disregard Ward's wealth in deciding their verdict.

"Sometimes during this trial, it seems like the state wants to put Mr. Ward on trial for being rich," Kirkconnell said.