James Robert Ward built a life for himself, wife Diane Ward and their two daughters on the strength of a business that developed exclusive vacation-home communities across the country.
The aftermath shows a family that was in severe financial distress — and Bob Ward in jail facing a second-degree-murder charge.
Bob Ward called 911 about 8 p.m. Monday and told dispatch operators: "I just shot my wife ... she's dead ... she's on the floor of the master bedroom," according to the arrest affidavit from the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies found 55-year-old Diane Ward in a pool of blood, a gunshot wound to her head, in the second-floor bedroom of the couple's 8,800-square-foot home on Isleworth Country Club Drive, reports show.
The 61-year-old developer has an initial court appearance at 9:30 a.m. today.
Investigators confiscated a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum from the nightstand next to the couple's bed, though they did not confirm whether it was the weapon used in the shooting.
"There were no two more wonderful people on this Earth than those two," said Glenn Saare, the Wards' brother-in-law. "She was a very giving person. She did anything for her children."
Bob Ward — a self-made millionaire — was raised in Daytona Beach, where his father owned a gas station, and Diane came from Rockledge, Saare said.
The couple met in Atlanta, where they worked for the same company, and they held a keen interest in horses, according to Bob Ward's LinkedIn page.
By all appearances, the Wards led a life of luxury. They belonged to Isleworth Country Club, Atlanta's Capital City Club and the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo.
Bob Ward was chairman and CEO of Land Resource, a privately held company that in 2006 had revenues of $190 million, his LinkedIn page said. The company developed 19 communities and 35 subsidiaries.
A profile of Bob Ward on Land Resource's defunct Web site says he has been a "leader in residential real estate development and mortgage banking" for 30years.
But as Ward was questioned Tuesday morning by investigators, details of his business dealings showed deep financial problems that belied the appearance of his lifestyle.
The company went bankrupt in 2008 and had its assets sold for $15.6 million in January, court records show.
The seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom house — once owned by legendary golfer Arnold Palmer, former major-league pitcher Orel Hershiser and publishing mogul Rance Crain — is in foreclosure.
The Wards hadn't made a monthly mortgage payment of $16,841 for more than a year, and as of July, they owed $3.6 million on the home they bought for $4.3million, according to court records.
Listed for $5.2 million, the house has been for sale for nearly two years, according to its listing on realtor.com.