James Bob Ward, a Florida millionaire real estate developer, was convicted by a jury trial of murdering his wife, Diane Ward, in their mansion. Prosecutor Robin Wilkinson played a 911 recording in which he tells a dispatcher five times “I just shot my wife.” Circuit Judge Jenifer Davis will make the sentence on November 8.
Some of the state’s final witnesses included one of the couple’s daughters, Sarah, and Orange-Osceola Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia. The jurors deliberated for more than 13 hours during two days before finding James Robert “Bob” Ward guilty of second-degree murder. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years.
It’s been two years and three days since Bob was charged. Lead defense attorney Kirk Kirkconnell said his client had been disappointed by the verdict but remains optimistic.
“He knows there will be a motion for new trial … He knows there’s grounds for appeal,” he said.
James Ward, 63, will basically face a sentence for the rest of his life behind bars. He showed almost no emotion as the verdict was read and did not speak. Law-enforcement officers quickly fingerprinted and handcuffed him before taking him to jail.
Ward, a developer whose company had filed for bankruptcy, was alone with his 55-year-old wife when she was shot in the face on Sept. 21, 2009. In her closing argument, Robin Wilkinson had told the jurors that evidence suggested Bob and Diane had an argument the night of her death, leading him to shoot her from a distance of about 18 inches. Kirkconnell told the jury that Diane might have been trying to commit suicide or shoot her husband.
Prosecutors contend his DNA was discovered on the gun and that Diane was shot from over a foot away, so suicide was unlikely. Ward pleaded not guilty to the murder. However, Jan Garavaglia said that she believes, based on her medical experience, that Diane’s death was a homicide, not a suicide.
The judge, Jennifer Davis, denied the defense lawyers’ request for an acquittal.
Kirkconnell explained that the recording of the 911 call James Ward made was the only reason his client was on trial. The trial took place at the same Orlando courthouse where Casey Anthony was cleared of murdering her little daughter in July. The 2009 death happened at the familyâ€™s $2.2 million mansion in Isleworth, close to where golfer Tiger Woods lived before his marriage ended.