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Marine Veteran Arrested In Property Feud Shooting Of Neighbor, Who Filmed His Own Death
Ralph Christie Jr. has been accused of fatally shooting his neighbor, Billy Nobles, who was driving a tractor — and filmed the incident — outside his home.
A Florida man who was allegedly shot to death by his neighbor while driving a tractor near their homes filmed his final moments alive — and his footage ultimately led to the arrest of the alleged gunman.
Ralph Christie Jr., 69, is accused of opening fire on his neighbor, Billy Nobles, last week following a heated dispute over a driveway. Video of the shooting that was discovered on Nobles’ phone after his death was what ultimately led to Christie’s arrest, authorities said.
On March 12, sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a rural property, about 35 miles southeast of Orlando after reports of gunfire.
Juanita Christie, the accused man's wife, called 911 and told dispatchers her husband shot Nobles with a rifle in self-defense after he'd allegedly “hit her with a backhoe tractor,” according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com.
Under questioning, she allegedly confessed that she'd confronted Nobles after noticing that he was using a backhoe to knock down trees outside her home without permission. She claimed she came outside, entangled her feet in a clump of vines, and was stuck “in-between” the tractor’s wheels. Nobles, she claimed, then intentionally “ran over” her, the complaint alleges.
Moments later, she heard a lone gunshot, and saw her husband with a “long rifle in his hand.” Nobles, who sustained a single gunshot wound, was taken to Advent Hospital East, where he died.
But Juanita Christie, who insisted she’d “feared for her life,” had no signs of visible injuries, investigators said.
The Florida woman said she owns the 40-acre farmland where the shooting occurred. Investigators learned she’d inherited the property along with her three sisters after their mother died in 2016. Juanita Christie disclosed that several people, including other relatives and renters, also occupy the property at her siblings’ discretion. They live at various residences scattered across the expansive property, she explained. She is reportedly the only sister who still lives there, according to the family’s legal team.
Nobles, who is the grandson of one of Juanita Christie’s sisters’ husbands, and his wife rented a residence on the property adjacent to the Christies.
“All parties involved are known to each other and everyone remained at the scene and cooperated with deputies,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com. “This case centers around an ongoing property dispute between relatives.”
Recently, Juanita Christie discovered that no official property lines exist to divide up the estate. Nobles, she alleged, exploited the revelation and became a chronic nuisance. She accused her sister’s grandson of destroying trees, littering incessantly, and freely roaming “wherever he wanted.” She also claimed he carelessly embarked on invasive construction projects on the land, including the building of a berm.
Nobles’ spouse confirmed the long-simmering territory quarrel to investigators — and leveled her own accusations at the older couple.
The woman stated the Christies had stolen and tampered with their belongings and changed locks on a shared gate to impede access to their home. The couple installed surveillance cameras and later decided on building a “new driveway” to give their home more privacy.
Detectives, who later searched Nobles’ cellphone, discovered he’d filmed the entire shooting, which debunked Juanita Christie’s version of events. According to the footage, Juanita Christie was never run over by Nobles’ machinery.
The 23-minute recording revealed she'd been “leaning” against Noble’s tractor, blocking its path, despite several warnings to move prior to the shooting. The video reportedly depicts Ralph Christie, Jr. aiming his rifle at Nobles from a distance of roughly 15 feet. His wife allegedly “stepped forward,” and “got out of [his] way,” before he pulled the trigger — contradicting her claim of being pinned by the tractor and tripping in a patch of vines.
Detectives alleged she also wasn’t pinned by the tractor when stepping forward away from the large tractor bucket on which she was leaning.
“Ralph fired one shot,” the complaint states. “[Nobles] dropped his cellphone and it landed in the dirt next to the backhoe tractor.”
Nobles allegedly “cried in pain,” and “kept repeating” he had children as he bled to death, according to the video footage.
“[The] video from his cellphone clearly depicts the factual events that took place and disproved Juanita Christie’s statement,” the complaint says.
Ralph Christie, Jr. was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder with a firearm, according to online jail records. His attorney, Richard Hornsby was adamant he'd acted in self-defense.
“We’re very confident that once the evidence has been thoroughly examined, that it will show that under Florida law, Mr. Christie was justified and reasonable in defense of his wife,” Hornsby told Oxygen.com.
Hornsby claimed additional video evidence of the deadly encounter exists; he said he’s confident this will clear his client of any criminal wrongdoing.
“We believe there is additional footage that hasn’t been reviewed that will show different vantage points and give a different context of the events that transpired that will show that Mr. Christie believed it was necessary to defend his wife,” Hornsby added.
The Florida defense lawyer claimed that Nobles had been “tormenting” and “threatening” the Christies for months and insisted his client called law enforcement dozens of times in recent months to report his neighbor for shooting guns in the middle of the night and shining a floodlight on the couple’s home after dark.
“This isn’t like they took matters into their own hands — they’ve called law enforcement 32 times in the past year and a half trying to get assistance,” Hornsby said. “It was not a surprise that eventually Mr. Christie had to protect his wife.”
Hornsby said his client, a retired military veteran who served with the U.S. Marine Corps, lived on the property since the 1980s. Juanita Christie is “functionally disabled,” Hornsby said.
Orange County prosecutors haven’t filed formal charges against Christie, who made an initial court appearance on March 14, according to court filings. He’s being held without bond at a county detention center, online jail records show.
A spokesperson for the Office of the State Attorney didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com on Thursday.