Daughter Testifies In Florida Millionaire Murder Trial

ABC News’ Josey Crews reports:

Diane Ward, 55, was found dead Sept. 21, 2009, in the Isleworth, Fla., home she shared with her husband, wealthy land developer James Robert “Bob” Ward.

Two years later, in a Florida courtroom where Bob Ward, 63, is being tried for his wife’s murder, the jury heard wrenching testimony as the couple’s family members took the stand.

Defense attorney Kirk Kirkconnell called on the couple’s daughter, Sarah, and Diane’s sister, Paula Saare, to paint a happy and loving relationship of the couple.

On the stand, Saare relived her last conversations with her sister.

“No, they were both laughing. No they were having a great time,” Saare testified when asked by Kirkconnell if she detected any anger or hatred between her sister and Bob Ward in their final conversations.  “No not at all,” she said.

The couple’s daughter, Sarah, took the stand to tell the same story.  She told the jury she loved both her parents very much, but also described her mother under the influence of alcohol.

“My mother threw a suitcase at me when she was drinking red wine,” she told the courtroom.

The defense team believes a combination of high amounts of alcohol along with depression medication led Diane Ward to become suicidal, leading her husband to grab the gun from her hand.

Prosecutors for the state disagree. They say Ward, in a fit of rage, intentionally shot his wife in the face.

Prosecutors say the family’s failing company, Land Resources, may have been the motive in her death.  Attorneys wanted to depose Diane Ward for a series of issues with her husband’s bankrupt company in the days before her death.

Ward allegedly transferred money to his wife to pay for cars, mortgages, trips to the Cayman Islands and Europe, tuition for their children and a life insurance policy.

The courtroom heard Bob Ward’s first call to his brother-in-law, Glen Saare, placed from inside a police holding center, telling him of Diane’s death.

“Diane is dead. And it’s a long story, but she’s dead,” he said.

When Saare asked how Diane died, Ward replied bluntly, “that’s another story.”

That other story is the central question of this second-degree murder case. Bob Ward says he tried to stop his wife from killing herself when the gun went off, firing a single bullet into her face.

Orange-Osceola Chief Medical Examiner and Discovery TV host Dr. Jan Garavaglia told the jury she believes Diane Ward’s death was a homicide.

“I don’t think suicide had anything to do with this,” she said.  “Interrupted suicides are extremely rare or nonexistent.  It’s very difficult to stop that trigger pull.”

Emotions in the courtroom continued to run high Tuesday when prosecutor Robin Wilkinson asked Sarah Ward about the events leading up to her mother’s death.

Bob Ward banged his hand on the courtroom table and put his head down as his daughter started crying after Wilkinson went through a line of questioning.

As Ward was consoled by his attorney, Sarah tried to leave the stand, but was overcome with emotion.

The trial will continue today with Judge Jennifer Davis set to issue a ruling on a defense request to grant a judgment of acquittal.  Pending her decision, the defense will then present its case.




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