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Doctor's wife guilty of murder-for-hire

  Criminal Law  -   POSTED: 2007/07/06 16:18

A woman accused of offering her younger lover a share of her doctor husband's multimillion-dollar estate to entice him to kill the 69-year-old was convicted Friday of murder-for-hire and other charges. Donna Moonda, 48, could now face the death penalty. The defense had argued that her 25-year-old lover, Damian Bradford, had acted alone and that Moonda had tried to revive her husband after Bradford shot him along the Ohio turnpike. Federal prosecutors argued the two were in it together and portrayed Moonda as a perpetual liar, thief and drug user.

"Two minds were set on murder," assistant U.S. attorney Linda Barr told jurors Thursday in closing arguments. "Two fingers were on the trigger of that gun on May 13, 2005, and two people must be held accountable."

Bradford has admitted shooting the doctor in the side of the head after his wife pulled over on the turnpike south of Cleveland, supposedly to let her husband take the wheel.

The federal jury also convicted Moonda of interstate stalking and two counts of using or carrying a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.

As U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr. read the four guilty verdicts, Moonda went from holding back tears, to shaking her head to quietly sobbing, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Jurors deliberated for eight hours over two days after more than two weeks of testimony.

Moonda's defense was that Bradford, a convicted drug dealer, robbed and killed the doctor in a steroid-fueled rage. Defense attorney Roger Synenberg told jurors that if they believed Bradford, then his client came up with the worst plan to murder a husband.

Bradford testified that on the day of the shooting, he followed the couple as they left their home in Hermitage, Pa., near the Ohio state line, and pulled in behind them when Donna Moonda stopped their Jaguar along the turnpike. He said he ran to the passenger side of the car and shot the doctor.

Other key evidence cited by prosecutors were a series of phone calls and text messages between Bradford and Moonda the day of the killing, up until she and her husband left on their trip.

Prosecutors pointed to Moonda's description of the shooter being the same height as her husband, 5-foot-3, as more evidence of her deceit. But Synenberg explained that the 5-foot-10 Bradford may have appeared shorter because he was leaning down looking into the car when he shot the doctor in the temple.

Moonda's attorney said in his closing argument that the doctor still had a pulse when paramedics arrived because his wife, a nurse anesthetist, had performed CPR. Synenberg said that action was proof of her innocence.

Bradford, of Monaca, Pa., met Donna Moonda in drug rehab, according to court records. He has pleaded guilty to interstate stalking and a gun charge and is expected to receive a 17 1/2-year sentence.


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