By Michael Zennie and Snejana Farberov
PUBLISHED: 08:38 EST, 31 May 2013 | UPDATED: 09:16 EST, 31 May 2013
A jury in Florida has acquitted a 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran accused of shooting dead an actor half his age whom he caught having sex with his wife in the couple’s home.
It took the jurors two hours Thursday to clear retired Lt. Col. Ralph Wald of second-degree murder charges in the March 10 slaying of 32-year-old Walter Conley.
Prosecutors said Wald heard his wife, 41-year-old Johnna Lynn Flores, and Conley having sex in the living room of their Brandon home, grabbed a gun and shot the actor three times, killing him.
Lovebirds: Ralph Lewis Wald (left) and his wife, Johnna Lynn Flores (right), embrace as he leaves the Orient Road Jail after being acquitted of f second-degree murder for shooting Flores’ lover
Marriage on the mend: Flores told reporters that her husband has ‘100 per cent’ forgiven her, and the two plan to celebrate his acquittal with a trip to a Waffle House
The 70-year-old man, however, claimed self-defense, saying that he thought his wife was being raped.
Wald’s attorney, Joe Episcopo, has built his defense around Florida ‘stand your ground ‘ law, which says that a homeowner has no obligation to retreat when faced with an intruder on his property.
In court Thursday, the defendant said he does not regret shooting and killing his wife’s lover, MyFox Tampa Bay reported.
‘If the same thing happened again, I would do the same thing,’ Wald said. ‘I didn’t think I did anything wrong.’
He then added: ‘I had a problem, I found someone raping my wife. I took care of it. I got a gun and I shot him.
He also expressed hope that he and Flores would be able to salvage their marriage – a process that would likely require counselling for their sexual problems.
‘In fact, she would joke a lot with me … that we were a perfect couple,’ Wald said. ‘She didn’t want to do it, and I couldn’t do it.’
Outside the Hillsborough Circuit Court, Wald’s philandering spouse gushed to the gathered reporters that she was ‘elated’ by her husband’s acquittal.
Unrepentant: Wald has claimed self-defense and said in court that he does not regret shooting and killing his wife’s lover
And the happy couple had a special evening planned ahead to celebrate Wald’s release from jail.
‘Because my husband puts me first, he’s taking me to the Waffle House,’ Flores boasted, according to Tampa Bay Times.
Hours after the not guilty verdict, Wald’s wife hinted that the couple may be on the road to reconciliation.
‘My husband forgives me 100 per cent. But there are of course, trust issues, that’s something we’re gonna go to counseling about, she said as she waited for her husband’s release from jail. ‘I wouldn’t give that man up for the world.’
When the bearded septuagenarian walked out of Orient Road Jail, he and Flores exchanged a passionate kiss before getting into a waiting car and taking off.
Prosecutors in the case tried to convince the jury that since Wald himself could not perform sexually, he murdered Conley in a jealous rage when he walked in on the 32-year-old man having sex with his wife at around midnight on March 10.
‘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,’ Assistant State Attorney Chris Moody said in closing arguments. ‘That kind of deep and personal insult, when you find another man having sex in your living room and you can’t, would make you want to lash out. And he did.’
Unhappy couple: Ralph Lewis Wald, 70, has been married to Johnna Flores, 41, for less than five months when Wald caught Ms Flores having sex with her ex-boyfriend after he went to bed
Horror: Wald went into the living room for a glass of water and found the pair ‘fornicating.’ He went back to his bedroom, got a gun and allegedly shot his wife’s ex dead
However, defense attorney Joe Episcopo argued that his client did not recognize Conley – his wife’s ex-boyfriend – and was under the impression that the man was raping Flores.
Wald said he got out of bed about midnight March 10 to get a drink of water when he found Flores and Conley having sex on the living room floor in his home in Brandon, Florida.
According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies, Wald went back to his room and returned with a handgun.
Killed: Walter Lee Conley, 32, had a record of petty theft. He died at the scene
He shot Conley, who lived on Lover’s Lane in nearby Riverview, several times. He died at the scene.
Wald called 911 and said he had killed Conley after he caught him ‘fornicating’ with his 41-year-old wife, according to police.
Flores testified during the trial that she was drunk on cognac and could remember almost nothing from that night.
Conley’s relatives, who were in court to hear the verdict, could be seen silently weeping when Wald was acquitted. Afterwards, one family member said he was disappointed by the outcome of the trial, the station WTSP reported.
Flores lived with Conley before she married Wald five months last year. She is Wald’s fifth wife.
Ms Flores was arrested last October – just two weeks before she and Wald were married – for allegedly firing a shot of Conley.
She said he came over and refused to leave. Conley told police Flores invited him back to the home they used to share.
She and Conley, who had a record of petty thefts and worked as a laborer, had shared a house next door to Wald in the community of Brandon.
Flores allegedly shot at Conley at 3am on October 19. She and Wald were dating then and he bailed her out of jail. Those charges were later dropped.
Ms Flores and Wald married on October 25.
Wald, a U.S. Army veteran, has a 20-year-old daughter with a previous wife.