ST. PETERSBURG — Police believe former Air Force Sgt. Ralph "Ron" Wright Jr. strangled his former lover barehanded, suffocated their 15-month-old child, then put on a pair of gloves from MacDill Air Force Base to avoid leaving fingerprints, according to records made public Tuesday.
One of the black gloves — the left — turned up on the arm of a couch near the front door of the victims' St. Petersburg home, the records state.
The glove was left behind in the killer's haste, according to an affidavit from St. Petersburg police Detective Karl Sauer and state attorney's investigator Steve Porter. Wright, 40, now a civilian, was arrested last week after a grand jury indicted him in connection with the slayings.
Forensic tests of the glove by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found DNA from Wright and no one else inside, according to the affidavit. But forensic tests by a Pennsylvania laboratory found DNA inside the glove that matched the victims, Paula O'Conner and her son Alijah, and nothing that matched Wright's DNA.
Although the DNA offered conflicting stories, the glove's origin provided another clue. The glove "is identical to a small number of gloves issued to the defendant's military police unit," the investigators wrote. Those gloves, made of a special flame-resistant material called Nomex, were kept in a locked storeroom at the base.
Wright had access to that storeroom, the affidavit states. No records show him checking any out. But security video showed Wright visited that area of the base about 2 a.m. on July 6, 2007, three to four hours before the slayings, the affidavit states.
Wright was supposed to be on vacation at the time. Wright — who was married to a woman in Orlando, although O'Conner didn't know that when she was dating him — had been seeing yet another woman. He had met her through match.com, according to the affidavit.
The woman had invited Wright to go to Disney World with her family the day before the slayings, but he didn't show up, the affidavit states. Later he told her he had missed the trip because he'd been on a secret mission, she told police.
Although a receipt shows Wright bought coffee at a Starbucks on Gandy Boulevard at 7:53 a.m., detectives said that left him plenty of time to carry out the slayings in St. Petersburg.
When questioned by detectives, Wright said the dead woman had been "a thorn in my side" for some time. He met O'Conner, an insurance underwriter, in 2004.
When she became pregnant in 2005, O'Conner later wrote, Wright disappeared. Alijah was born on April 9, 2006. He suffered from numerous medical problems that O'Conner couldn't afford to treat on her own.
O'Conner, who later detailed her problems with Wright on a Web site, hired a private investigator to find him. Then she learned Wright was married.
Three weeks before the murders, she had Wright served with papers in the MacDill parking lot informing him that she was suing him for child support. When questioned by police, Wright denied fathering her child. But DNA confirmed Alijah was his son.