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Millionaire convicted of killing wife in Florida mansion

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - A Florida jury convicted millionaire Bob Ward of second degree murder on Saturday in the 2009 shooting death of his wife in their Isleworth mansion, rejecting his lawyers' claims that the death was an accident.

Prosecution evidence against Ward, 63, included a 911 call he made in which he told dispatchers that he had shot his wife. Sentencing was scheduled for November.

Ward's lawyers said at trial that Diane, who they said might have been suicidal, was killed when the couple struggled over a gun and it accidentally discharged.

State experts calculated that Diane was shot in the face from a distance of 18 inches, and testified it would have been impossible for her to do that.

Among the state's witnesses was Ward's former girlfriend, Dianne Callahan, who said Ward invited her to lunch in Atlanta in 2009 and complained that his wife was spending too much money. The Wards' two adult daughters also testified about their parents' heavy drinking.

The shooting occurred in the couple's mansion in Isleworth, a gated subdivision near Orlando famously known for a car accident involving Tiger Woods later that same year. Woods' accident triggered a chain of personal events that led to his divorce and current struggles in his golfing game.

Ward was reported to have been under stress at the time of the shooting from a business bankruptcy and home foreclosure. Prosecutors said Diane had not seemed suicidal in conversations that day with friends and family, and had just opened a Facebook account.

The year before the shooting, Ward filed for bankruptcy protection for his real estate development company and stopped making $17,000 monthly mortgage payments on his home, according to news reports at the time of the shooting.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

(This story corrects the day of conviction)

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