In January after a long court battle, a Florida jury acquitted a former teacher accused of murdering her ex-husband. Cara Ryan had been charged with the murder of Sgt. John “JJ” Rush, a former police officer in St. Petersburg. Even after the acquittal, Ryan’s days in court are not over. Now she is facing a wrongful death lawsuit from Meghan Rush, the victim’s daughter.
Christian Waugh, the attorney representing Rush, said the lawsuit is a way for the 23-year-old to find some type of closure in the case of her father’s death. “Our point and our job with this lawsuit is to get what justice we can,” he explained. Ryan’s attorney during the criminal trial, Roger Futerman, responded with, “Just because you file a lawsuit, doesn’t mean it’s going to prevail.”
This tragic case has divided the Clearwater community since it began in 2015. Cara Ryan, age 47, was originally charged with second-degree murder, after officials accused her of fatally shooting her ex-husband in her apartment in Indian Beach. Throughout the trial, Ryan’s attorneys argued that she shot Rush in self-defense. The jury only deliberated for two hours before finding Rush not guilty. The verdict was read on January 27.
Just weeks later on March 6, Rush’s daughter filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court. The lawsuit claims Ryan is responsible for the death of Rush and would ban her from any life insurance benefits she might receive from her ex-husband under terms of a Florida law sometimes called the “Slayer Statute”.
Rush and Ryan got married in 1997 and divorced nine years later. However, they continued to see each other romantically and remained friends. Rush’s daughter, Meghan, was born through a previous marriage. She said her father had retired as a sergeant in the police’s forensic unit and he had just started a new job as an investigator for the medical examiner’s office at the time of his death. Meghan claimed in the lawsuit that Ryan “exerted great control and influence of Rush’s actions.”
In early 2015, Rush reportedly broke ties with Ryan for good and moved out of the apartment they shared. He occasionally checked on her after that and helped with repairs at the apartment. According to the lawsuit, Rush came to the apartment on March 7 after receiving a text from Ryan. But while he was there, Ryan was getting texts from another man so he left. Phone records show that Ryan then called Rush six separate times and he eventually returned to the apartment, where she shot him in the back. Rush stumbled out of the apartment, trying to find a neighbor to help. Ryan called 911 and told dispatchers that Rush had raped her.
The lawsuit would block Ryan from receiving any life insurance benefits from Rush and it would also redirect any money from his pension funds, totally around $1,500 per month, to his rightful heir, daughter Meghan Rush.
“While no one knows the whole story of what transpired on the day of John Rush’s death, this wrongful death lawsuit may at least bring peace to his daughter that some justice was served,” said Tampa wrongful death attorney Christopher Ligori.