The financial meltdown of Isleworth murder suspect James Robert Ward continued Thursday when an Orlando judge approved the $2.7million sale of land that belonged to his bankrupt company.
Ward, 61, who is jailed without bail on a charge of shooting his wife to death at their multimillion-dollar home, founded and owned Land Resource LLC. The development company filed for bankruptcy last year.
The killing is thought to be the first in the affluent, gated community developed in the mid- to late 1980s by golf legend
and his partners, an Orange County sheriff's spokeswoman said.
Palmer himself once owned the house on
Drive where deputies found the body of Diane Elizabeth Ward, 55, on Monday night. The seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom home is in foreclosure.
On Thursday, the bankruptcy judge approved the sale of a 625-acre tract in
's Rutherford and Buncombe counties to Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.
The judge also OK'd the sale of a $275,000 model home belonging to LR RiverSea, a Holden Beach, N.C., subdivision and subsidiary of Land Resource, and computer equipment valued at $2,000.
Most of Land Resource's assets were sold in January for about $15.6million. The company still owns a handful of model homes.
Improvements in question
Land Resource was the principal developer of high-end subdivisions in North Carolina and
, according to a lawsuit filed this year against the Wards by Bond Safeguard Insurance Co. The company issued millions in bonds for the projects.
More than 700 lots were sold in the communities, and Ward's companies collected about $139million in sales, the suit claims. But promised subdivision improvements have not been completed, it alleges.
Bond Safeguard contends that revenues were not reserved to complete the improvements. Instead, the money was used for other purposes, including "improper distributions to Robert Ward," the suit said.
Authorities have not suggested a connection between Ward's financial implosion and the slaying of his wife, who was shot in the head.
In a 911 call, Ward told a dispatcher, "I just shot my wife ... she's dead." Her body was found on the couple's bedroom floor.
Bob Ward is being held without bail on a second-degree-murder charge. One of his two adult daughters is scheduled to visit him twice today and once Saturday, jail records show.
Mallory Ward will be accompanied by her aunt, Paula Saare, who is Diane Ward's sister, during the 45-minute visits, according to records. Father and daughter will be in separate buildings but will be able to talk by phone and see each other on a TV screen.
Reached by phone Thursday, Saare would not comment. Mallory Ward could not be reached.
The Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner's Office has not released Diane Ward's body.
More details about her death — such as where the fatal bullet struck her and what caliber gun was used — have not been made public.
Deputies recovered a .357-caliber Magnum handgun from a nightstand next to the bed.
Wife was Rockledge grad
Friends remember Diane Ward as a popular, fun-loving girl from Rockledge.
"Colorful is a good way to describe her," said Kris Husby Buckey, 55, who went to Rockledge High School with Ward — then Diane Cardinale.
"I always remember her smiling and laughing."
In her 1972 yearbook, Diane Ward had long, dark-brown hair parted in the middle like everyone else in the class, Buckey said.
She listed the paramedics club and Tri-Hi-Y, a club for girls, in the yearbook.
Diane Ward's family owned a popular Italian restaurant in Rockledge. Her parents later sold it, and it eventually closed, Buckey said.
Buckey lost touch with Diane Ward after they graduated but heard about the death through a friend.
"It's so sad," Buckey said.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized.
Sarah Lundy can be reached at
or 407-420-6218. Walter Pacheco can be reached at 407-420-6262 or
. Susan Jacobson can be reached at