Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Former cop is suspect in 2 killings

Police are searching for Ralph Wright Jr. in the deaths of his ex-girlfriend and son.
Henry Pierson Curtis

Sentinel Staff Writer

October 24, 2007

A former Orange County deputy sheriff and Eatonville police officer was named Tuesday as the only suspect in the double murder last summer in St. Petersburg of his ex-girlfriend and their 15-month-old son.

Ralph "Ron" Wright Jr. is thought to be looking for work in Orlando after losing his job at MacDill Air Force Base as a result of the murder investigation, according to St. Petersburg police.

"After we eliminated everybody else, he was the only one left," police spokesman George Kajtsa said. "He is the focus of the investigation."

Wright, 39, worked for the Orange Sheriff's Office and Eatonville in the early 1990s, records show.

The deaths in July of Paula O'Conner and her toddler Alijah, known as "AJ," came months after she created a Web site, militarydeadbeatdads .com, to expose what she claimed was Wright's lack of support.

"This is my story," O'Conner began when she wrote the Web site's four-page account of love, betrayal and abandonment. "The Military's lack of response on this situation is beyond absurd."

A single mother, O'Conner described how Wright introduced himself at a restaurant in early 2004 as a divorced father who had worked at the Orange County Sheriff's Office until being re-called to active duty with the Air Force after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Wanting to make sure he was honest and sincere, she ran an Internet background check on Wright that came back without any evidence of a criminal record.

"So I was thinking what the heck," she wrote. "He's a nice guy, average looking, was funny, we had things in common, and he wasn't taken."

Upon learning she was pregnant, O'Conner wrote, Wright disappeared for weeks and then claimed the Air Force had sent him on a secret mission. Their son was born last year with serious heart defects that required multiple surgeries, according to the Web site.

The bodies were discovered July 6 in O'Conner's home on Dawson Avenue North in St. Petersburg. Autopsies showed O'Conner had been strangled and AJ had been smothered.

Wright has not cooperated with the investigation, police said. Investigators are trying to locate anyone who might have seen Wright near O'Conner's home in the period surrounding her death. Wright joined the Orange Sheriff's Office in August 1991. He was fired March. 24, 1992. He received a scathing dismissal as one of the worst rookies to wear the uniform.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show Wright worked for the Eatonville Police Department from October 1994 to July 1996, leaving because he failed to complete mandatory retraining requirements.

Preliminary DNA tests identified Wright as the father of O'Conner's child. He was married to an Orlando woman when he met O'Conner, police said. The dead mother's estate is suing Wright for $357,000 in medical bills, according to press accounts.

Henry Pierson Curtis can be reached at

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