He never responded to his wife’s petition for divorce, nor did he hire a lawyer. Wednesday morning, Walter Samuel Radford failed to show up for the final divorce hearing, Bartow County court records showed.
At 12:04 p.m, Radford’s divorce was finalized. And less than two hours later, Radford allegedly shot and killed his now ex-wife’s attorney in his Cartersville office.
While at the courthouse Wednesday morning, attorney Antonio Benjamin Mari told colleagues he was scared of Radford, the man his client was divorcing, attorney Wade Everett said.
Mari, 41, was found dead from multiple gunshots shortly before 2 p.m, according to police.
After shooting Mari, Radford called his ex-wife, Cindy Radford, to tell her he’d killed the attorney, according to Lt. M.E. Bettikofer with Cartersville police. From there, Walter Radford, 33, allegedly broke into his ex-wife’s house and shot himself while no one else was home. He was found dead in the Willow Bend Drive home at 2:40 p.m. Wednesday.
Mari’s death shocked the Cartersville community, where he had worked nearly 18 years as a high school history teacher and later an attorney. After teaching for 10 years at Cass High School, Mari graduated from law school and passed the Georgia bar exam in 2009.
Though he represented clients in bankruptcy and domestic cases, Mari wasn’t the typical tough-faced litigator, according to fellow Cartersville attorney Lester Tate.
“He’s just one of the nicest, most easy-going people you could imagine,” Tate said.
Tate said security is big concern for small legal firms, including his own. Armed deputies are present at courthouses, but much of civil litigation takes place in lawyers’ offices. Much of his staff carries guns, but even that might not have saved Mari’s life, Tate said.
“It’s very difficult to defend yourself when you’re dealing with someone committed to taking their own life,” he said.
Though he didn’t know specifics, Everett said Mari had a “gut feeling” that Radford could harm him. On Thursday, Everett said he and his colleagues discussed security at their office.
“There’s only so much security you can really do,” he said. “You can carry a gun. But unless you’ve got it in your hand and you’re waiting on someone, it’s not going to do you any good.”
Police did not release details on a possible motive for Radford killing Mari. But court records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show Cindy Radford filed for divorce in March. Walter Radford was served with papers, but never filed a response.
Wednesday morning, Cindy Radford was granted physical and legal custody of the couple’s two children and was awarded the family home, court documents showed.
Mari is survived by his wife. Late Wednesday, Cass High School posted a tribute to him on Facebook. And Thursday morning, the Bartow County school system honored Mari in a post.
“Inspirational, favorite teacher, Georgia Bulldog fan; that’s how Antonio Mari’s former students at Cass High School describe him,” the school system posted. “We share the community’s grief and extend our deepest sympathies to the Mari Family, as well as the BCSS Family.”
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