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Crime & Courts

Attorney: Brandon man killed wife's lover in self-defense

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Published:   |   Updated: May 30, 2013 at 11:49 AM
TAMPA -

He told 911 dispatchers he shot his wife and a man he caught “fornicating” with her.
 
When a dispatcher asked Ralph Wald, 71, if he could follow instructions to help the victim, Wald exclaimed, “No! Get the ambulance and get the police out here to arrest me and do whatever the heck’s right.”
 
Asked if the man was dead, Wald responded, “I hope so!”
 
Wald is on trial charged with second-degree murder in the March 10 killing of Walter Lee Conley, 32, who was shot three times in the living room of Wald’s home in Brandon.
 
Wald now says he was acting in defense of his wife and himself because he thought Conley was raping his wife, according to defense lawyer Joe Episcopo.
 
Wald’s wife, Johnna Flores, 41, actually was not shot the night of the slaying. She said she doesn’t remember most of what happened because she blacked out after having six glasses of cognac.
 
She said she had been having sex with Conley before and after her Halloween marriage to Wald, but most of the time she was passed out drunk when it happened. She said the sex helped her regulate her menstrual cycle.
 
Flores said Conley had a tattoo of a rose with her name on his neck and her face on his arm.
 
Wald, she said, had erectile dysfunction and could not have sex.
 
She and Wald had separate bedrooms, she said, because her husband “snores like a freight train” and sleeps in a Craftmatic adjustable bed, which she finds uncomfortable.
 
Until that night, whenever she and Conley had sex, it was in her bedroom after Wald was asleep, she testified, saying she hid the affair from her husband.
 
Having sex with Conley in the living room “would be kind of dumb on my part,” Flores said.
 
But she said she also had tangled with Conley. She owned the house next door and once fired a warning shot to make him leave, she said. She and Wald also found him sleeping on the floor and told him to get out, she said.
 
She testified she changed her locks and took other measures to keep him away, but he always managed to get inside. At the same time, she communicated with him through text messages and Facebook messages, telling him to come over.
 
The night of the killing, she watched a movie on television, “Cinderella Ever After.”
 
She took a shower beforehand and saw her husband taking his sleeping pill. She was upset, she said, because, “I thought I was going to have to watch the movie by myself.”
 
She said she “kind of blacked out” after drinking the cognac so she doesn’t remember how Conley got in the house. “He was just there,” she said.
 
She said she doesn’t remember having sex with Conley in the living room.
 
Episcopo told jurors Wald and Flores have not consummated their marriage to this day.
 
Flores had been Wald’s next-door neighbor, and they began dating in 2009. She confided in him that she had been sexually abused by her stepfather when she was a child and kicked out of the house when she reported it.
 
Because of that, she told Wald she had trouble being intimate, Episcopo said.
 
Flores said she had couldn’t have relations with her husband because he was older and reminded her of her stepfather, but didn’t have the same problem with Conley.
 
Episcopo said Wald got up around midnight that night because he thought he heard something. He realized there was a man in the living room “doing something he can’t believe. Certainly, in his mind, this was not a voluntary act on the part of his wife.”
 
The defense lawyer said Wald went and got his gun and yelled at Conley to get out. Conley got up and used Flores as a “human shield” to try to get away from the gun. Episcopo said Wald shot at Conley trying to break him away from Flores. At one point, Flores’ nightgown got in the way, and Wald thought he shot her.
 
Before calling 911, Wald checked his passed-out wife for a pulse, Episcopo said.
 
Assistant State Attorney Renee Muratti told jurors the victim didn’t even have a chance to pull up his pants before he was killed.
 
esilvestrini@tampatrib.com
 
(813) 259-7837
 
Twitter: @ElaineTBO
 

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