true crime

Bob Ward was convicted twice of killing his wife. His daughters swear he's innocent.

From the outside, Bob and Diane Ward lived a charmed and privileged life.

They'd been married 26 years, were raising two daughters and called a six-bedroom, $2.8 million property home in the exclusive community of Isleworth in Orlando, Florida. 

But it was in that mansion one night in September 2009 where the illusion shattered. 

Authorities found Diane, 51, dead in the master bedroom, a gunshot wound to the face and a .357 Magnum handgun on the nightstand. Her real estate tycoon husband was the only other person in the house, along with their four dogs. 

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Ward claimed the gun accidentally discharged as he was trying to wrestle it from her hands.  

He said he didn't know what she was thinking and whether her plan was to end her own life, but that he just knew he had to "get it out of her hand". 

In an unusual case that was tried not once, but twice, Ward was found guilty both times of killing his wife. But the property developer and self-made multimillionaire maintains his innocence.

Money problems and motive.

A mix of antidepressants and alcohol were found in Diane's system after her death, which supported Ward's claims that she was unstable and potentially suicidal. But the timing was also suspicious.


A victim of the great recession, Ward's prosperous real estate business was facing bankruptcy. According to his daughters, Ward remained optimistic, while their mother became resentful about having to cut back on her luxurious lifestyle, and agitated at the prospect of losing the family's fortune.

Image: New York Social Diary.

On the contrary, the prosecution insisted that Ward wanted Diane dead as she was just days away from testifying against him at a bankruptcy hearing - and revealing that he had defrauded clients at his firm. 

According to reports, Ward was also being sued by an insurance company accusing him of taking more than $20 million from the sale of lots he was building in Tennessee in 2007, but that lawsuit fell apart due to lack of action. 


The first conviction.

For the charge of second-degree murder, Ward was sentenced to 30 years in prison in late 2011. 

The prosecution focused on how Ward had admitted to shooting his wife, then changed his story to say she killed herself while he was trying to pry the gun from her.

The emergency call Ward made was played in court. "I just shot my wife ... I just shot my wife. I just shot my wife. She's dead. She's done. I'm sorry," he could be heard saying. 

After the guilty verdict, Ward said in an interview from Orange County Jail that he didn't believe the jury truly understood the scenario that had played out the night his wife died. 

Images: Crime Watch Daily/WESH2.

"She was on my side of the bed, right behind me, holding a gun," Ward explained. "And that's what the evidence showed, that she was right behind me holding a gun. I turned around and it was a split second - I'm talking about a blink of an eye - that I had to grab a gun and stop I don't know what from happening.


"For some reason, the jury didn't understand that and our side didn't get that across. And I mentioned several times during the trial to my attorney ... I said, 'I don't think they understand where Diane was when this happened.' So what was she doing right behind me on my side of the bed?"

Ward also denied he had been drinking that night, or that he and Diane had been fighting. 

But his behaviour after his wife died was seen as strange by some, particularly detectives. 

Cell footage captured him laughing and joking with his daughter and family, but he defended his attitude as a sort of self-preservation: "When things are bad, you had better get your game face on. What good would it [have] done for me to be like some crying maniac over that camera to them?"

His daughters are on his side.

Image: WESH2.

Oldest daughter Mallory, who wasn't at home when the shooting occurred, has always believed her father's account that it was all an accident. At the first trial, she painted a picture of her late mother as a heavy drinker, and said she had been drinking red wine on the night she was shot. 


"I said, 'Mum, you get a little loopy when you drink. Maybe you need to cut back'," she recalled in 2011.

Her younger sister, Sarah, also backed her father's argument and even told how her mother once threw a suitcase at her when she was intoxicated. 

"I knew it was typical of her to have at least a bottle of wine [every night]," she said. 

The second conviction.

In 2016, Ward got a lucky break when his conviction was overturned because of a legal technicality. He was able to remain in Orange County, Florida, under strict bail conditions. 

But his freedom was short-lived. By early 2018, he was back in the courts and facing a new trial under the lesser charge of manslaughter with a firearm. 

Again, Mallory attested to her mother's problem with alcohol, while experts testified the gun was fired at close range, possibly from Diane's own hand. 

Sarah told the court, "I love my dad. My relationship with my dad is really, really good. We're really close friends."

The new jury found him guilty, again, and Ward was sentenced to 30 years in prison - again. 

After hearing that verdict, Mallory was filmed crying and screaming, "My mum f***** tried to kill my dad and he's going to prison for it!"

Ward remains in prison to this day.

Feature Image: Crime Watch Daily.