In a high-profile trial in Florida, a multimillionaire living in one of Orlando's most exclusive communities, was arrested after shooting and killing his wife.
The couple's two daughters speak out to Crime Watch Daily in his defense.
Diane Ward, the wife of real estate mogul Bob Ward, was shot dead in the master bedroom of their multimillion-dollar home on September 21, 2009.
Was Diane Ward's death really just a tragic accident? Or did her husband Bob murder her in cold blood?
Now the astounding discovery of a letter from the grave may finally answer the question that's confounded the justice system and haunted the Ward family since the day Diane died.
Bob and Diane ward really did have it all: a happy 26-year-marriage, two beautiful daughters and enough money to own numerous luxurious estates in several states, including their new $2.8-million home in Isleworth, an ultra-exclusive community in Orlando, Florida.
Daughters Sarah and Mallory say they and their parents were a loving tight-knit family who valued having each other more than any of the luxuries their wealth could buy. And the sisters credit their privileged lives to dad Bob, a property developer and self-made multi-millionaire who had built a vast real estate empire.
The Ward family found their fabulous dream life suddenly turning into a nightmare when Bob's priceless real estate business collapsed under the weight of the Great Recession. Even though Bob was facing bankruptcy, daughter Mallory says her father remained optimistic. But not Diane, who grew increasingly despondent over the prospect of losing the family fortune, according to Sarah and Mallory.
Sarah says Diane vainly tried to ease her depression with booze and prescription drugs. Sarah says Diane would turn into a different person, far from the loving mom she knew, and completely out of control, even in public, according to Sarah. Sarah says Diane was also directing her anger and resentment at Bob after having to cut back on some of her luxuries. And Sarah says her father was like Diane's punching bag.
But then something horrifying happens late one night at the Ward residence.
Police arrive at the Ward home in the early hours of the morning in September 2009 to find Diane Ward lying covered in blood on the floor of the master bedroom, dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Husband Bob tells investigators at the scene what he'd already told the 911 operator.
The real estate tycoon says he walked into the bedroom to turn in for the night and was shocked to find his allegedly depressed and intoxicated 51-year-old wife Diane holding his .357 Magnum handgun. Bob says the weapon accidently discharged while he struggled to get it away from her before she could kill herself, or him, or the both of them.
Bob Ward was charged with the second-degree murder of Diane Ward.
Bob Ward says the gun went off when he was trying to get it away from Diane. But prosecutors believe the two were arguing over financial problems, and that's why Bob shot her. Now it was up to a jury to decide.
Bob Ward was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years to life in prison.
But four years later Bob finally wins an appeal on the grounds that he had inadequate legal counsel, and his new defense attorney issues this statement: "The judge's order confirms what we've maintained throughout this proceeding ... That Bob Ward never got a fair trial and has now served over four years in prison on a faulty conviction," wrote Sean Ellsworth.
And Bob is reunited with his daughters as he leaves court a free man -- at least temporarily. Prosecutors insist on retrying Bob for his wife's murder.
This time Bob's new legal team focuses heavily on the mental state of Diane the night she died, pointing to the autopsy report, which found she had a dangerously high level of antidepressants and alcohol in her body. Police also found evidence at the scene that Diane had consumed at least four bottles of red wine, which is like throwing gasoline on a fire when mixed with an overdose of her prescription drugs.
Unlike the first trial, the jury buys the defense's argument that Diane had died accidentally after Bob found her with his gun in their bedroom and tried to take the deadly weapon from her. But they still find him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, leaving his daughters heartbroken once again.
But then just weeks ago, with the judge still considering Bob's upcoming sentence, a bombshell development: A letter that daughters Sarah and Mallory believe was written by their mom was found hidden away in a closet of one of the Ward family's properties in Atlanta nearly nine years after her death.
"We were cleaning out the house," Sarah tells Crime Watch Daily. "It had been sold and an estate saleswoman was going through my parents' bedroom, and in the closet in a folded notepad holder in a back pocket stuffed in there was the note."
Sarah believes her mother probably wrote the letter when she was at the Atlanta house just weeks before she died. Diane's daughters read the words their mother wrote to them in her last testament:
"Dear Mallory and Sarah, please know how much I love you. I don't know how it happened for me to end up like this. I want you to have wonderful lives and know that I will always watch out for you both. Take care of Daddy. I love you more than you will ever know. Take care of the dogs. They will need you."
Despite the tragedy of Diane's death, the sisters would come to see the letter as a blessing, because it supports their belief that Diane was about to kill herself when their father tried to wrestle his gun from her that fateful night, and that he was only trying to save her life.
Sarah says the letter also makes her suspect that her mother actually did commit suicide, and that her father kept it a secret, willing to take the blame for Diane's death for the sake of her dignity. Mallory just wishes her mother's lost last letter had been found before Bob went on trial. But she and Sarah are hoping the letter can still free their father from prison.
The letter, declared authentic by a handwriting expert hired by the defense, has now been presented to the judge to consider while deciding Bob's sentence for the manslaughter conviction. And as of now the letter's authenticity has not been challenged by prosecutors.
Since the verdict, Crime Watch Daily has learned that one of prosecutors in the case resigned as he was being investigated for sending an inappropriate text message to one of Ward's daughters. The text read: "That's just your way of saying you want to see me naked."
In a statement, State Attorney Aramis Ayala tells us, in part: "The A.S.A. no longer is employed with my office. I am confident that the successful prosecution of Bob Ward was not compromised."
Bob Ward is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.