No indication of trouble hours before death, sister testifies

Story highlights

  • Victim's daughter and sister testify in Florida millionaire's murder trial
  • Victim Diane Ward's sister says she detected no troubles in the relationship
  • Prosecutors say James "Bob" Ward killed his wife
  • Family members say the death was the accidental result of a struggle over a loaded gun
There was nothing to indicate trouble in the relationship between a Florida woman and her husband despite incredible pressure over financial issues, the woman's daughter and sister testified Tuesday in the husband's murder trial.
"They were both laughing, they were having a great time," Paula Sare said of her sister and brother-in-law on the Friday two years ago, before Diane Ward died of a gunshot wound in the bedroom of the home she shared with her husband in Orange County, Florida.
Prosecutors argue James "Bob" Ward, 63, killed his wife with a bullet nearly square between the eyes. He is charged with second-degree murder.
Family members and Ward's attorney, Kirk Kirkconnell argue Diane Ward died after a struggle over a loaded gun.
Testimony began Tuesday with a police computer forensics specialist reading from an e-mail sent from James Ward's account indicating pressure from attorneys handling the bankruptcy of one of this two companies pushed his wife to commit suicide.
"I hope you're happy. Diane killed herself this evening," the e-mail read.
Ward's daughter Sarah also testified, saying she believed her mother was drinking the night she died. But the judge ordered her comment stricken and she had to testify that she had no way of knowing what happened in her parents' bedroom that night.
At one point during his daughter's testimony, James Ward loudly pounded his fist on the desk, prompting the judge to send the jury out of the room and admonish his attorneys to keep their client under control.
Sare said she detected no animosity or difficulty developing between James Ward and her sister, with whom she said she was "more than best friends."
But prosecutors have painted a different picture, pointing out that Ward called 911 the night of the shooting and said, "I just shot my wife," before relating a series of shifting stories as the call progressed.
"It becomes an accident and he doesn't know what happened. ... Diane just ended up on the floor," Assistant State Attorney Robin Wilkinson in her opening statement last week.
His story continued to change during questioning, prosecutors said. In several videos from an interrogation room -- which the prosecutor promised would be played in court -- Ward offered an array of stories in phone conversations with family and friends, from "It was a tragic accident" to "Diane killed herself."
Wilkinson also brought up how Ward acted upon arriving at the police station for questioning, during which investigators described him as "calm, polite and not really in distress."
According to the arrest affidavit from the Orange County Sheriff's Office, Diane Ward was found in the bedroom with "a large pool of blood at the top of her head (and) a .357 Magnum hand gun (in) the top drawer of a nightstand next to the bed."
Prosecutors have highlighted the financial troubles facing Ward -- who, along with his wife, had been set to testify in bankruptcy proceedings related to one of his companies.
Kirkconnell, though, insisted that in no way did his client benefit from his wife's death. "The death of Diane Ward ruined Bob Ward financially," he said.