crimesider

Florida Millionaire James "I Just Shot My Wife" Ward Now Says it was Suicide

(Orange County Sheriff's Dept.)
Booking Photo: James Robert Ward.

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Financially troubled Florida millionaire, James Robert Ward, shot his wife in the face, killing her, called 911 to confess, then later told several people via email that his wife had killed herself because of their actions, according to police.

Documents released Tuesday show Ward had his Blackberry with him in an interview room, and sent a chilling e-mail to several people, including a trustee involved in a bankruptcy case involving Ward's fortune. "I hope you're happy," the e-mail read. "Diane killed herself this evening. Go to hell."

The 156 pages of investigative material released to the media add unusual details to the case. Ward, a 61-year-old prominent southeast developer of resort communities in five states, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 55-year-old wife. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on a $100,000 bond.

Diane Ward died in the couple's $5.2 million home in the tony Isleworth subdivision near Orlando, the same community where Tiger Woods and Shaquille O'Neal live.

The couple had lived in Orlando for a couple of years. They previously owned properties in the Atlanta area.

But the couple's lavish lifestyle belied their financial trouble. Ward hadn't paid the $16,841 monthly mortgage on the estate in over a year, and had filed for bankruptcy after his business failed.

According to sheriff's reports, Ward dialed 911 around 8 p.m. on Sept. 21.

"I just shot my wife. She's dead," he said. When deputies arrived, they found shattered glass and liquid on the floor of the back patio.

A detective inside the house overheard Ward on the phone, saying Diane had killed herself.

"Hey, I probably can't tell you anything right now other than that she's dead and ummm it was an accident," Ward was overheard saying. "And I will tell you more about it later. But you know it was a very tragic accident other than that, all I wish I could do is go (expletive) shoot myself in the (expletive) head and go on ..."

During another call, Ward used the phrase "pushed her over the edge," and said he "tried to get the gun out of her hand," according to the documents.

A detective wrote that Diane Ward's death was not consistent with suicide.

"The gunshot wound is not a contact wound, there was a significant amount of stippling (unburned particles of gun powder) on her face and in her eye (and) the gun was located several feet away from her body in a nightstand drawer," wrote Orange County Sheriff's Detective Brian Cross.

The Wards have two daughters in college. While Ward was held in the Orange County Jail, one of his daughters and his sister-in-law, Paula Saare, visited him on three occasions. The documents show Saare pleaded with detectives to "just make it an accident."

"Ms. Saare stated that James Ward was under a great deal of stress," Cross wrote. "I explained to her that the investigation shows that her sister did not die as a result of an accident."

  • Sammy Saltzman

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