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Pinellas County couple's death a murder-suicide

ST. PETERSBURG — William Brown Wood Jr. said if he ever took his own life, something might also happen to his ex-wife.

Wood also told his longtime girlfriend that if he killed himself he wouldn't burden her by leaving behind his body — or his two beloved dogs.

Tragically, authorities say he was a man of his word.

His ex-wife, Donna Aline Havard Wood, 54, was found shot to death in her Snell Isle home at 1927 Brightwaters Blvd. NE on Friday night, St. Petersburg police said.

Her body was found hours after her 53-year-old ex-husband's body was found that afternoon floating in a canal off Second Avenue S in Tierra Verde, near the house he shared with his girlfriend and her children, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities believe William Wood shot his ex-wife dead in Snell Isle, then took his own life in Tierra Verde.

He left behind two devastated families — and more than a few hints as to what he was planning.

"If I ever kill myself," he often told his girlfriend, Mariela Lucas, "don't get mad."

Lucas, a 34-year-old mother of two, always thought he was joking. But now she can't find his two dogs — Cindy, a white Labrador, and Shadow, a black Labrador.

She thinks he may have killed them as well.

• ••

Wood was a St. Petersburg native, a businessman who helped send his sons, Daniel and Billy, to two of the nation's top colleges: Harvard University and Amherst College, respectively.

But he was also a father torn between two families: the family that broke apart years ago, and the one his girlfriend said they were raising in Tierra Verde.

Court records show that William and Donna Wood married in 1980. They were business partners in a pair of Florida companies in the early 1990s.

But the marriage had more than a few rough spots. They filed for divorce four times since 1997. Finally, in 2005, their divorce became final.

Mrs. Wood, a former accountant who became a licensed real estate broker, retained custody of their two sons, but with a twist on visitation that her attorney, Mark Hanks, said made the Woods' divorce unlike any other he has handled in 20 years.

"The two of them would rotate in and out of the house, while the kids would stay in the house," Hanks said.

That arrangement, he said, was hard on the parents but provided the two boys greater stability during the couple's breakup.

"She was very friendly with her ex-husband then," said Hanks, although he added that subsequently the couple clashed over how long Wood stayed in the house as a live-in parent.

There were signs of trouble. Donna Wood sought domestic violence injunctions against William Wood three times: in 2002, 2005 and 2007, records show.

Records also show William Wood was arrested three times in Pinellas County: in 2000 for criminal mischief, in 2004 for domestic battery and in 2007 on another charge of criminal mischief. All charges were dropped.

• • •

Mariela Lucas said she met William Wood nine years ago at a Gold's Gym. He was an avid weight lifter, and she mistook him for a trainer. They started dating 18 months later.

He kept his two families separate, she said. Wood rarely mentioned her to his sons, Lucas said. But she said he always talked to her about his troubled relationship with his ex-wife.

Then the rift between the two families widened on Wednesday, Lucas said, leaving Wood depressed.

Lucas last saw her boyfriend taking out the garbage Thursday morning. Then he was gone.

Early Friday morning, she awoke to find photos of himself missing from their hooks on the tan living room wall.

His black Jeep Wrangler was parked outside, photos of his two sons left on the passenger seat. It wasn't until hours later, when she noticed the emergency vehicles down the street, that detectives told her what happened

Then she realized that Wood had packed up all of his belongings before taking his own life.

She said when she called one Wood's sons to tell him about his death, he asked that someone check on his mother.

The son said his father told them if he took his own life, something might happen to her.

"I guess I didn't know him like his family knew him," Lucas said. "But I knew him like I knew him.

"He changed my life. We were soul mates."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this story.

Pinellas County couple's death a murder-suicide 05/23/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 24, 2009 7:10am]
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