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Friday, May 13, 2022

The Ralph Wald Murder Case

     In March 2013, Ralph Wald, a 69-year-old retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who fought in Vietnam, lived with his wife Johnna Flores in Brandon, Florida. The couple had been married since October 2012. She was 41.

     On Sunday, March 10, 2013 just before midnight, Wald got out of bed for a drink of water. En route to the kitchen he saw Johnna on the living room floor having sex with a man he didn't recognize. Wald immediately returned to his bedroom where he picked up his .38-caliber revolver. Back in the living room a few moments later he shot his wife's sex partner in the stomach and head. The man died on the spot.

     After shooting 32-year-old Walter Lee Copley who turned out to be one of Johnna's old flames from Riverview, Florida, Mr. Wald called the police. To the dispatcher he said that he had just shot a man he caught "fornicating" with his wife in their home. After the call Mr. Wald laid down his gun and waited for the authorities to arrive at the death scene.

     Deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office took Mr. Wald into custody that night. The next day Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney Chris Moody charged Ralph Wald with second-degree murder. A judge denied the murder suspect bail.

      The Wald case went to trial in Tampa, Florida just eleven weeks after Mr. Copley's death. Prosecutor Moody, in his opening remarks, told the jury that the defendant, who suffered from erectile dysfunction, killed the victim in a jealous rage.

     Defense attorney Joe Episcopo argued that his client thought Mr. Copley was an intruder raping his wife. Under Florida's stand your ground self-defense doctrine the defendant had no duty to retreat from his own home.

     On the second day of the three-day trial Johnna Flores took the stand for the defense. She testified that when her husband shot Mr. Copley she was "black-out" drunk from too much cognac. As a result she had virtually no memory of the shooting.

     The defendant followed his wife to the stand. According to Ralph Wald he and Johnna had planned to see a therapist regarding their sexual problem. "In fact," he said, "she would joke a lot with me that we were a perfect couple. She didn't want to do it and I couldn't do it." The witness said he hoped to salvage his marriage. "I love my wife," he said.

     Prosecutor Moody, in his closing argument to the jury, said this about Mr. Copley: "It's a personal insult to conduct that kind of activity in a man's home, his castle. It cuts to the quick. It's brazen. That kind of deep and personal insult when you find another man having sex in your living room and you can't have sex yourself. This would make you want to lash out--and the defendant did."

     Defense attorney Episcopo, in addressing the jurors, said, "This was a military man trained to know what to do with the enemy. You take your gun and you kill the enemy."

     On May 30, 2013, the jury, after just two hours of deliberation found the defendant not guilty. Ralph Wald embraced his two lawyers as his wife Johnna cried tears of joy.

     Members of Walter Copley's family who were in the courtroom when the verdict was read were obviously not happy with the outcome of the case.

     Following the acquittal, the Wald/Flores marriage showed signs of strain. In October 2014 he filed for divorce but a few months later withdrew the case. Police arrested Flores for assault after she hit her husband with a picture frame. That case was dismissed.

     On Monday at ten-thirty in the morning, September 16, 2018, Mr. Wald called 911 to report his wife was unresponsive. Police officers arrived at the couple's house to find 48-year-old Johnna Flores dead on the living room couch. She had been shot with her husband's .38 caliber revolver, the gun he had used to kill Walter Conley. Police officers, at that time, did not take Mr. Wald into custody.

     In January 2020, Ralph Wald was charged with shooting his wife to death. Officers booked the 77-year-old into the Hillsborough County Jail on the charge of manslaughter with a firearm. 
     As of this writing Mr. Wald awaits his second murder trial that has been delayed several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


  1. When a person over 60 suddenly goes off the rails and kills someone, I wonder if this is a symptom of early dementia.

  2. And just 6 years later the Wife was found dead in the home too.


  3. Ralph Wald has now been charged with the death of his Wife Johnna Flores. He needs to be taken off of the streets!