In Florida, a criminal trial is in progress for millionaire businessman Bob Ward, charged with criminal homicide in the death of his wife, Diane, in September 2009. Ward first told police he'd shot his wife by accident.
Later, Ward changed his mind and his version of events, saying now he'd been trying to stop his wife from committing suicide when the handgun went off.
It wasn't the first time a criminal homicide defendant claimed a victim committed suicide. With no crime victims to interview, and wealthy 'persons of interest' hiding information from police, investigations often flounder and leave questions.
Two months ago in San Diego, the nude body of Rebecca Zahau was found hanging from a second-floor balcony, hands and feet bound with cord, and a towel wrapped around her neck. The house was owned by Jonah Shacknau, a pharmaceutical mogul, who was reportedly elsewhere when the woman died. She was found very early in the morning by Shacknau's brother, who happened to be staying in the guest house.
San Diego police investigating the case soon determined Zahau had indeed committed suicide. Not likely, says Zahau's family.
Some years ago, a record producer named Phil Spector was entertaining Lana Clarkson, a "B-list actress he had picked up at a Hollywood restaurant. Clarkson was perhaps hopeful of making a career connection when she accompanied Spector to his mansion.
Hours later, Clarkson was dead. Spector called police, saying the woman was despondent and had shot herself in the mouth.
Phil Spector's first trial, in 2007, ended in a hung jury because the jury couldn't agree on a verdict. The famed record producer was found guilty in a second trial dating to 2009 and is currently serving a 19-year sentence for second degree murder.
Among the circumstances that argued against Spector was that the death appeared staged. The former actress was left-handed, yet the .38 special revolver was found on the floor to the right of the chair upon which Clarkson slumped dead.
Spector says it was Clarkson who pulled the trigger, not him. Spector's celebrity attorneys appointed to the lack of GSR or gun-shot-residue on Spector's hands or clothing when he was arrested.
The police theorized that the record producer had changed clothing and washed his hands before they arrived at the scene.
As with the Spector case, gunshot residue and ballistics will come into play for Florida millionaire Ward, who lives in a home once owned by Tiger Woods.
The distance of travel, angle of entry, and trajectory of the single bullet that killed Ward's wife points to murder, law enforcement authorities say. There's also his recorded statement when he called 911.
"I just shot my wife," says Ward in the phone call.
On the other hand, the defense will point out the amount of drugs purported to have been found in Diane Ward's system. She was trying to kill herself, they'll argue.
Can jurors be sure, 'beyond a reasonable doubt,' that she wasn't?
Anthony Ventre is a freelance writer who has written for weekly and daily newspapers and several online publications. He is a frequent Yahoo contributor, concentrating in news and financial writing.