Clearwater High teacher accused of murdering ex-husband has bail halved

The judge expects she won't flee the area, where she has family.
Published March 19 2015
Updated March 20 2015

LARGO — Cara Ryan, the Clearwater High School teacher charged with murdering her ex-husband earlier this month, was expected to be released on bail Thursday night, her lawyer said.

Circuit Judge Michael Andrews lowered Ryan's bail from $500,000 to $250,000 at a hearing Thursday morning. Though the evidence against her in the case is "pretty significant," Andrews said, Ryan's family ties in Pinellas County make her a low flight risk.

Authorities allege that she shot John "J.J." Rush after calling him to her Indian Rocks Beach home the night of March 7 with a sexually suggestive text message. Rush, 45, was Ryan's ex-husband and a former St. Petersburg police officer who most recently worked as an investigator in the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office.

The couple divorced in 2006 but had been in an on-and-off relationship. Prosecutors said Rush had moved out of Ryan's home about three weeks before the killing.

During the bail hearing Thursday, a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy provided further details about the minutes before Rush was shot. Detective John Syers said forensic specialists believe the bullet went through Rush's left arm and into his chest about 10:14 p.m.

At 10:11 p.m., two calls were made from Ryan's cellphone to Rush — one went unanswered and the other lasted 17 seconds, according to Syers. Just a minute later, he said, there was another 14-second call between the two numbers, followed by two missed calls at 10:13 and a canceled call at 10:16. At 10:17, Ryan called 911 and told a dispatcher that Rush had raped her and she shot him, Syers said.

But in subsequent interviews with detectives, authorities have said, Ryan changed her story numerous times, at one point claiming a stranger had burst into her bedroom before she fired the gun.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Ryan started dating a detention deputy after separating from Rush earlier this year. Syers testified Thursday that Ryan eventually told investigators that the deputy had texted her the night of the killing and Rush became angry after seeing the message.

Defense attorney Roger Futerman said Ryan has worked for the school system for 20 years. He said her 80-year-old mother and three sisters, two of whom testified at the hearing Thursday, all live in the county.

"She's never been arrested for anything," Futerman said. A Pinellas schools spokeswoman said Ryan is still a district employee and is on personal leave.

Rush's daughter, Meghan, 21, testified at the hearing, saying Ryan and her father had often fought during their marriage.

When Andrews announced his decision, the younger Rush sobbed in the second row.

If and when Ryan is released, she will have to surrender her passport and avoid contact with Rush's loved ones. She is charged with second-degree murder. Futerman had asked for $100,000 bail but said Thursday afternoon that Ryan's family is still able to cover their bond obligation at the higher amount.

Contact Zachary T. Sampson at or (727) 893-8804. Follow @ZackSampson.