Bob Ward murder case: Diane Ward ingested many anti-depressant drugs, defense expert says — (Orlando Sentinel)

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Orlando Sentinel

February 3, 2011

By Anthony Colarossi, Orlando Sentinel

Trial scheduled to start later this month

Diane Ward, the woman authorities say was shot and killed by her husband inside their Isleworth mansion in late 2009, had ingested four times the prescribed dosage of a powerful anti-depressant prior to her death, according to new testimony from a defense expert.

During a January deposition Dr. Jimmie Valentine said that Diane Ward had high levels of alcohol as well as “two therapeutic drugs” – Citalopram and Trazodone.

Citalopram, the drug found in especially high concentrations in Diane Ward’s blood and more commonly knows as Celexa, “is a drug that has been associated with suicides in individuals,” Valentine said in his Jan. 21 deposition. His testimony was based on a review of autopsy and medical records.

When asked by a prosecutor if Ward was suicidal at the time of her death, Valentine could not answer definitively, but said, “We do know that a percentage of people that are taking anti-depressant drugs do commit suicide.”

James Robert “Bob” Ward, is accused of shooting his wife in their bedroom on Sept. 21, 2009. He has said that she was trying to kill herself and that the shooting was an accident. Ward is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 14. He is charged with second-degree murder.

The more than 40-page deposition was submitted into the Ward case file this week. It shows how Valentine, a forensic toxicology and medical pharmacology expert, reviewed the medical examiner’s report for the woman as well as a toxicology report, her prescription drug history and records from Emory Medical Clinics in Atlanta, where she was seen as a patient from 2005 through the time of her death in 2009.

Valentine, a retired professor at the University of Arkansas, College of Medicine in Little Rock, said with the amounts of alcohol and anti-depressants found in Diane Ward’s system, “Her cognitive affect would be greatly diminished. She would be very lethargic.” She would have appeared like a person “highly inebriated from just alcohol,” he said.

Her records from the Emory Medical Clinics indicated she drank “on a regular basis,” Valentine said.

“This is a substantial amount of alcohol that was found in her body…even that level, plus the amount of drugs found in her would be enough to depress her central nervous system greatly,” he said.

In 2005, the Emory Clinics facility diagnosed Diane Ward with “extreme stress disorder” and talked about her suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well, the doctor said. She was initially placed on Prozac, but later switched to Citalopram.

In December 2007, she suffered a significant “anxiety attack” and her Citalopram dosage was increased. Later, the Trazodone was prescribed as well, according to the deposition.

Valentine said Diane Ward’s normal dosage of Citalopram was three tablets, but her blood work showed signs she had “taken upwards of 12 tablets of Citalopram on the day of her death.”

“Can I tell whether or not Mrs. Ward was suicidal? I don’t, I don’t know from the records,” Valentine said. “Again, all I can tell you is that these drugs are associated with suicide acts in an individual.”

Those suicidal tendencies can manifest themselves in either overdoses or violent acts, such as shooting oneself, he said. At the same time, Valentine agreed under questioning that a person under the influence of alcohol and anti-depressants could have been murdered.

The information in the Valentine deposition offers a glimpse at part of the defense theory, during a week in which Orange Circuit Judge Walter Komanski denied defense requests to keep many critical statements Bob Ward made after the shooting out of the upcoming trial.

Anthony Colarossi can be reached at acolarossi@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5447.

 

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Bob Ward loses appeal in wife’s shooting — (Orlando Sentinel)

July 17, 2013

By Jeff Weiner, Orlando Sentinel

Ward, now 65, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after his 2011 conviction.

James Robert “Bob” Ward, center, is taken into custody… (Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel )

Former Isleworth millionaire James Robert “Bob” Ward’s appeal was rejected Tuesday by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which affirmed his second-degree-murder conviction in his wife’s 2009 shooting death.

The court issued what’s known as a per curiam affirmance: a brief ruling upholding the lower court’s result, without explaining the appeal court’s reasoning. Such findings are often the end of the line for an appeal.

However, Ward’s appellate lawyer, James E. Felman, said Wednesday he and his client “will not give up fighting his conviction.”

“We’re evaluating our options,” Felman said.

Ward, now 65, was convicted in September 2011 by an Orange County jury in the shooting of his wife, Diane Ward, inside their Isleworth mansion Sept. 21, 2009.

Orange County Circuit Judge Jenifer Davis sentenced Ward to 30 years in prison. He’s currently serving his time in the Marion Correctional Institution in Ocala.

In her closing argument at trial, prosecutor Robin Wilkinson told jurors the evidence suggested Bob and Diane Ward had an argument the night of her death, ending when Ward shot her in the face from a distance of about 18 inches.

Jurors also heard Ward’s infamous 911 call, in which he told a dispatcher he shot his wife, and “She’s dead. She’s done. I’m sorry.”

Ward’s 60-page appeal brief accused Wilkinson of relying on “class prejudice” at trial, and argued the state failed to disprove “an equally or more reasonable hypothesis” that Ward’s wife “was attempting to kill herself and that the gun accidentally discharged as Ward tried to stop her from doing so.”

On Wednesday, Felman reiterated that view.

“I thought the evidence was insufficient to establish his guilt,” the appellate lawyer told the Orlando Sentinel.

jeweiner@tribune.com or 407-420-5171