Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Suit: MacDill officials lied to woman about sergeant who was later accused of killing her

TAMPA — A former sergeant at MacDill Air Force Base awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges worked at base security despite two failed jobs in civilian law enforcement, a lawsuit says.

The estate of Paula O'Conner and her son, Alijah, filed a wrongful death suit in U.S. District Court on Thursday against the government and O'Conner's alleged lover and killer, former Air Force Sgt. Ralph Daniel Wright Jr.

Wright, 44, awaits trial in Pinellas County for the 2007 strangulation death of O'Conner and 15-month-old Alijah, whose bodies were found in O'Conner's St. Petersburg home.

Wright quickly fell under suspicion after police learned O'Conner had sued Wright for paternity and said on a website she created, deadbeatmilitarydads.com, that he denied responsibility for the child.

The suit claims the Air Force did not adequately investigate Wright's background before assigning him to a military police job at MacDill and, as a result, did not know he had lost two previous law enforcement jobs.

One of those jobs was as a deputy with the Orange County Sheriff's Office, which fired Wright after labeling him "administrative unfavorable," said the lawsuit, which provided no other detail about why he was discharged.

The lawsuit also says MacDill personnel misled O'Conner about Wright's whereabouts as she tried to get financial help from him for the child, first when she was pregnant and after she gave birth to the baby in 2006. The child, which she said Wright fathered, was born in poor health and required thousands of dollars in medical care.

Wright's MacDill colleagues told O'Conner that Wright was off base on "special assignment," according to the lawsuit.

O'Conner also visited Wright's commander, who is not identified in the suit, "advising him of ... her dire financial situation and telling him she needed money for her and the fetus and needed to know (Wright's) whereabouts," the lawsuit says.

But the commander refused to help, the lawsuit says. Later, the lawsuit says, the Red Cross told O'Conner that Wright had not left MacDill.

Wright denied paternity and refused to help O'Conner, who eventually filed a paternity case against him, according to the suit.

O'Conner, an insurance underwriter, met Wright in 2004. Three weeks before the killings, she had Wright served with papers at MacDill informing him she had filed suit seeking child support.

O'Conner said Wright hadn't told her that he was already married and had a family.

Wright has pleaded not guilty to two first-degree murder charges. His trial is set for early 2013.

An attorney for O'Conner's estate, which includes her parents, said Friday the family would not comment. MacDill officials did not return a message seeking comment.

Suit: MacDill officials lied to woman about sergeant who was later accused of killing her 09/14/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 15, 2012 12:05am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)

    World

    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.