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Donna J. MOONDA

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Murder for hire
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 13, 2005
Date of arrest: July 24, 2006
Date of birth: 1959
Victim profile: Dr. Gulam H. Moonda, 69 (her millionaire urologist husband)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Ohio Turnpike, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on July 18, 2007
 
 
 
 
 
 
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United States Court of Appeals
For the Sixth Circuit

 
United States of America v. Donna J. Moonda
 
 
 
 
 
 

Judge rejects motion by Donna Moonda

By Joe Pinchot - Ncnewsonline.com

April 16, 2011

SHARON — A federal judge has denied a motion by Donna J. Moonda to vacate her sentence.

The decision comes opportunely while an Investigation Discovery channel documentary is airing, replaying the  murder case of Dr. Gulam Moonda.

U.S. Judge David D. Dowd Jr., Akron, agreed with prosecutors that Mrs. Moonda is trying to relitigate issues already decided by a higher appeals court.

Mrs. Moonda, 52, formerly of Hermitage, was convicted by a jury in July 2007 of murder-for-hire and three other federal charges related to the shooting death of her husband, Dr. Moonda.

Moonda, 69, was gunned down May 13, 2005, in an emergency pull-off of the Ohio Turnpike in Cuyahoga County by Mrs. Moonda’s lover, Damian R. Bradford, 29, formerly of Beaver County.

Bradford testified that Mrs. Moonda promised to share her inheritance with him if he killed her husband. Mrs. Moonda has maintained that she had nothing to do with her husband’s death and that Bradford acted alone.

Mrs. Moonda’s attorneys, Timothy C. Ivey and Vanessa F. Malone of the Federal Public Defender’s Office, Cleveland, said Bradford’s testimony was the only evidence about any deal between him and her to kill Dr. Moonda.

Bradford had plenty of incentive to testify against her as he had made a sweetheart of a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Cleveland, they said.

Bradford, who is housed in Ray Brook, N.Y., was sentenced to 17 years in prison, and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons lists his projected release date as April 6, 2021.

Dowd, who took six days to consider his decision, said a motion to vacate petition “is not an opportunity to revisit a ruling made on direct appeal.

“As indicated by the government, and as the (U.S. Court of Appeal for the) Sixth Circuit (in Cincinnati) considered and rejected the argument that there was insufficient evidence to support the consideration element of the murder for hire conviction, there is no basis to grant the petitioner ... relief,” Dowd said Thursday.

Mrs. Moonda can appeal Dowd’s decision to the Sixth Circuit, which ruled on her direct appeal Sept. 29, 2009.

 
 

Court upholds Moonda conviction

By Bill Vidonik - Timesonline.com

October 1, 2009

— A federal court has upheld the federal conviction of a Mercer County woman who persuaded her Center Township boyfriend to kill her husband in a 2005 murder-for-hire scheme.

Donna Moonda, 50, formerly of Hermitage, was sentenced in September 2007 to life in prison for her murder-for-hire conviction, and 360 months in prison, followed by five years’ supervised release, for her convictions on interstate stalking resulting in death and two counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in death.

Moonda’s attorneys appealed the convictions to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, saying that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the guilty verdicts and that U.S. District Judge David Dowd erred by refusing a jury view of the crime scene during Moonda’s trial in Akron, Ohio.

Moonda was having an affair with Damian Bradford, 28, whom she met during drug rehabilitation meetings while married to Dr. Gulam Moonda.

Donna Moonda promised Bradford half of her inheritance, between $3 million and $6 million, if he would kill Gulam Moonda, an act carried out in what was staged to look like a random robbery along the Ohio Turnpike on May 13, 2005.

Donna Moonda had agreed to deny Bradford’s involvement in the shooting, according to court testimony, but then she refused to testify in his trial, so he cut a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for a 17-year sentence on guilty pleas to interstate stalking and using a firearm during a crime of violence, Bradford testified against Moonda.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, federal judges ruled that there was “more than enough evidence,” including Bradford’s testimony, for a jury to conclude that Donna Moonda plotted her husband’s killing.

Also, the judges wrote that adequate evidence was presented to the jury to give an accurate picture of the crime scene at the time of the shooting.

Bradford remains in custody in a medium-security prison in upstate New York. Moonda is incarcerated in Connecticut.

 
 

Donna Moonda gets life in husband's murder

By Milan Simonich - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

July 18, 2007

AKRON, Ohio -- Donna Moonda, the doctor's wife from Mercer County, Pa., who had it all, will spend the rest of her life in prison.

Mr. Hayes took the same view. It was no one thing that convinced him of Mrs. Moonda's guilt. It was everything, he said.

Mrs. Moonda's initial claim that she and her husband were victims of a random robbery on the turnpike seemed unlikely, he said. Then the killer turned out to be her boyfriend after she insisted to the highway patrol that Mr. Bradford was blameless.

"Her connection with Bradford was a big part of it, but it really was a combination of everything," Mr. Hayes said.

Troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol used cell phone tracking records to establish that Mrs. Moonda and Mr. Bradford met the day of the murder, May 13, 2005. They also exchanged 15 text messages and eight phone calls that day.

Until yesterday, Mrs. Moonda's lawyers had insisted that she had no idea Mr. Bradford was the highway robber who killed her husband. Her defense team maintained that Mr. Bradford disguised himself so thoroughly that Mrs. Moonda did not recognize him, even though she had been seeing him romantically for a year.

But defense lawyer David L. Grant told jurors in his closing argument that Mrs. Moonda was involved in the murder plot. She lied and "misled" the highway patrol, he said.

Still, Mr. Grant said Mrs. Moonda was less responsible for the murder than Mr. Bradford. He said she is a "submissive" woman and suffers from "dependent personality disorder," which allowed Mr. Bradford to manipulate her.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Barr, in a fiery speech, countered that Mrs. Moonda was the one most responsible for her husband's death.

"The defendant literally held the keys to murder, and literally was in the driver's seat the evening of the murder," Ms. Barr said.

Mrs. Moonda sobbed loudly as Ms. Barr denounced her as a greedy woman who killed her 69-year-old husband so she could try to get his multimillion-dollar inheritance.

After the jury gave her a life sentence, Mrs. Moonda cried again. But this time she seemed relieved. She rose from the defense table and hugged Mr. Grant, whose closing argument helped persuade the jurors to let her live.

Jurors elected not to sentence Mrs. Moonda on two firearms charges that could have carried the death penalty. They convicted her of aiding Mr. Bradford in the shooting, but decided to let U.S. District Judge David Dowd sentence her to a penalty of less than life on those convictions.

No matter what penalty Judge Dowd decides is appropriate for the firearm convictions, Mrs. Moonda still will spend the rest of her life in prison, barring a successful appeal.

Dr. Ravi Sachdeva, a colleague and close friend of Dr. Moonda, said he believed justice has been done.

"We're satisfied. Life in prison without parole is a serious sentence," Dr. Sachdeva said as he left court.

He said he feels sympathy for Mrs. Moonda's 77-year-old mother and her three sisters, but not for the killer who took away his friend.

Dr. Sachdeva said he runs into Dr. Moonda's old urology patients each week, and their pain is raw.

"They have nothing but contempt for Donna," he said.

 
 

Ohio jurors deliberate in trial of woman accused of hiring lover to kill husband

Whdh.com

July 6, 2007

AKRON, Ohio -- Prosecutors said Donna Moonda grew tired of her wealthy husband so she hired her lover to kill him for a share of his multimillion dollar estate.

Defense attorneys said Moonda tried to revive her 69-year-old husband, Dr. Gulam Moonda, after Damian Bradford shot him on the Ohio turnpike, proving her innocence. Bradford acted alone, they said.

Jurors were expected to resume deliberations Friday in Donna Moonda's murder for hire trial. If convicted, Moonda, 48, could face the death penalty.

Bradford has admitted fatally shooting Gulam Moonda along the highway during a trip the married couple was taking.

"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."

Jurors began deliberating later Thursday and were sequestered overnight.

Moonda cried during the hourlong statement by prosecutors, her head bobbing up and down as she sobbed.

Her attorney, Roger Synenberg, said in his closing statement that the doctor still had a pulse when paramedics arrived because his wife performed CPR.

"Her doing CPR for 20 minutes, that's evidence of innocence," he said. "That's not evidence you want your husband robbed and murdered."

Synenberg has maintained that Bradford, 25, of Monaca, Pa., is a thug who acted alone.

"It was a spontaneous decision made by a 'roided-up drug dealer who needed money to buy drugs," he said of the shooting.

Bradford, who met Moonda in a drug rehab program, testified that she offered him half of her husband's estate if he killed the doctor. Bradford has pleaded guilty to interstate stalking and a gun charge and promised to cooperate with authorities in return for a 171/2-year sentence.

Assistant U.S. attorney Nancy Kelley recounted the numerous text messages and phone calls Bradford and Donna Moonda made to each other, messages that Moonda would sometimes sign as "your baby girl."

"They told of sex, drugs, wealth, violence and a future together," Kelley said.

Besides the murder for hire charge, Moonda is charged with interstate stalking and two counts of using or carrying a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.

 
 

Donna Moonda Trial: Closing arguments

By Joe Pinchot - SharonHerald.com

July 5, 2007

AKRON — In a case of turnabout is fair play, prosecutors in Donna J. Moonda’s murder-for-hire trial used the same strategy in their closing arguments that the defense had used in its opening. The defense had portrayed Damian R. Bradford as a liar who later made up a story implicating Mrs. Moonda in the death of her husband, Dr. Gulam H. Moonda, to get a break on jail time.

Bradford, 25, of Beaver County, has admitted shooting Dr. Moonda, 69, of Hermitage, on May 13, 2005, along the Ohio Turnpike in Cuyahoga County. He said Mrs. Moonda, 48, of Hermitage, put him up to it in return for half of what she would have inherited from Dr. Moonda’s estate. Testimony showed Bradford had lied in previous unrelated court proceedings and to police investigating Dr. Moonda’s death.

Prosecutors on Thursday pointed out instances where Mrs. Moonda has lied, undercutting the validity of her statements to police. She lied on a loan application for a car, lied to Bradford about her age, and lied to UPMC Horizon, Greenville, to cover up that she was stealing drugs.

She also employed a full-scale deception to keep from her family her drug problem, firing and relationship with Bradford. Dr. Moonda became aware of the affair when a girlfriend of Bradford’s told him.

“She deceived every single person in her life that we know of,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda H. Barr.

With the verifiable facts of her legacy of deception in place, prosecutors cast dispersion on statements Mrs. Moonda had given police.

Mrs. Moonda said the man who shot her husband was the same height as Dr. Moonda, 5 foot 3 inches tall, when Bradford is 5 feet 10 inches tall.

“Donna Moonda saw Damian Bradford standing right next to her husband,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy L. Kelley.

Mrs. Moonda had told police she was focused on performing CPR on her husband so that he would not die, but did not tell a 911 dispatcher or a passerby that he had been shot.

She told police that Dr. Moonda flashed his wallet containing a large amount of cash at a turnpike service plaza, when a plaza video showed she was holding the wallet.

And Mrs. Moonda said she would never forget the voice of the shooter -- a voice that she knew through hundreds of telephone conversations and intimate visits, Ms. Barr said.

“At least Damian Bradford never pretended to be something he wasn’t,” she said.

 
 

Donna Moonda Trial: Widow plotted Dr. Moonda's death, Bradford testifies

By Joe Pinchot - SharonHerald.com

June 26, 2007

SHENANGO VALLEY — AKRON – His drug of choice was powder cocaine.

And marijuana.

And alcohol.

Then, he got clean, and only sold cocaine and pot. The only illegal drug he was ingesting was depotestosterone, a steroid that quickly helped him gain weight and build muscle mass. A side effect of the steriod was that it also made him “a little bit more edgy,” he said.

Yeah, he had been in trouble with the law. There were those little matters of marijuana trafficking and a gun charge in 2002, but they were only misdemeanors, he said, although court documents listed the drug charge as a felony.

He didn’t mind working, but decided to quit legitimate employment and devote himself to full-time drug dealing.

And women.

Meet 2005’s man of the year, Damian R. Bradford, the Beaver County man who shot to death Dr. Gulam H. Moonda, 69, of Hermitage, and got to tell a jury about the killing in his own words Monday at the trial of Dr. Moonda’s wife, Donna J. Moonda, who is charged with hiring Bradford to kill her husband.

Bradford, apparently, was irresistible to women. He had a girlfriend, Charlene McFrazier, living with him in Aliquippa, but got his own place in Center Township when the answering machine messages left by another girlfriend, Donna J. Moonda, got him in hot water with Ms. McFrazier. Mind you, he kept seeing Ms. McFrazier.

Bradford had love to spare. He was in love with Ms. McFrazier — they were kind of engaged, he said — and in love “to a degree” with Mrs. Moonda.

Was he in love with anyone else? asked an incredulous Roger M. Synenberg, Mrs. Moonda’s attorney.

“Myself and several other females,” Bradford said, elicitng the biggest laugh of the trial from the reporters covering it.

Bradford listed three other women he was in love with, although he only knew the last name of one of them.

That was common with Bradford, liking and even loving people whom he didn’t know by their names, or only knew first names or nicknames. Shown his own telephone records listing people he called or who had called him, Bradford did not know some of the names.

Into this murky world of drug deals, fudged car loan and rent applications, cash-only transactions and flashy jewelry and cars, Mrs. Moonda cast her lot.

Bradford told of meeting Mrs. Moonda at a drug rehabilitation group therapy session. Bradford was getting off cocaine and alcohol, while Mrs. Moonda, 48, was trying to get a monkey named Fentanyl, a prescription pain reliever, off her back. They started going out for something to eat after the sessions.

“It turned into a physical relationship,” Bradford said. They had sex the first time when they skipped a therapy session and went to a motel.

They saw each other at therapy sessions about twice week, and romantically two or three other times a week. They went shopping together — Bradford said he has a “shopping problem” — and talked on the telephone and text messaged each other dozens of times a day, to the point that Bradford admitted she got on his nerves at times.

He called her “baby girl.” She called him “daddy.”

Bradford said he knew she was married, and she knew he dealt drugs. What he did not know was her real age. “She had me under the influence she was 30,” he said.

As the relationship went on, Mrs. Moonda started giving Bradford cash and buying him jewelry and clothing, he said. When he moved into the Center Township apartment, she would pay his rent, cable and electric bills, he said. She once gave him $4,000 cash, which he used to buy a Land Rover, and then arranged for a loan to buy a Chevrolet Trail Blazer for him. She gave him the $3,000 down payment, and paid his monthly loan installment.

Mrs. Moonda and her husband talked of a divorce with her getting $1 million -- four times what was specified in a prenuptial agreement, Bradford said.

“I suggested she take it, but she said no,” Bradford said. “She said she wanted to get what she deserved, what was owed to her.”

The conversation developed into a plan to kill Dr. Moonda, Bradford said.

“I was to receive half of everything she was going to get, “ which he believed to be $3 million to $6 million dollars, Bradford said.

That money sounded pretty good. Bradford told police he was addicted to money and was a “young, black kid who was struggling.” With that money, he said, he could take care of his mother and his brothers.

Mrs. Moonda initially wanted Bradford to find someone else to do the dirty work, but he never set about recruiting anyone and decided to pull the trigger himself.

“At first, I wasn’t willing,” he said of killing Dr. Moonda, “until things were brought to me and already plotted out. Things were too good to be true.”

Bradford testified of a plan to kill Dr. Moonda outside the Youngstown mosque the doctor attended, but said he never got the opportunity on a day when he lurked outside waiting for Dr. Moonda to emerge. He added that if Dr. Iftikhar Chatha was present, he also was to shoot Dr. Chatha, he said.

Bradford said he followed Dr. Moonda to his office in Hermitage, then got directions from Mrs. Moonda and met her at the Trout Island home she shared with her husband in Hermitage. They talked and had sex, and Bradford said he suggested he kill Dr. Moonda when he came home.

“She said no, the neighbors,” Bradford said.

Besides, there would be another opportunity when she went to Toledo with her husband, Bradford said Mrs. Moonda told him. She told him of a plan, which he accepted, he said.

He was to follow them and shoot Dr. Moonda when they pulled to the side of the road to switch drivers, Bradford said.

“My job was to make it look like a robbery gone bad,” he said. “She made me aware he would have a large amount of money on his person.”

“Did you think that was a pretty good plan?” Synenberg asked.

“Yes, sir,” Bradford said.

“You had no problems with that plan?” Synenberg continued.

“Yes, sir — me killing Dr. Moonda,” Bradford said.

Bradford also glossed over variables to the plan, such as he did not know where the Moondas would pull over — just that they would at some point; that where she did pull over was a busy stretch of the Ohio Turnpike in Cuyahoga County; and that he had “stacked” the bullets in his gun — alternated round-head and hollow-head bullets. If he had a fired a hollow-head bullet, it could have gone through Dr. Moonda into Mrs. Moonda, who was beside him, he said.

On the day of the killing, May 13, 2005, Bradford was summoned by a text message from Mrs. Moonda, who said she had something for him. They met in Moravia, Lawrence County, where she gave him Mapquest directions to Toledo.

He later camped out at a store near the Moonda home, and saw the gold Jaguar drive by.

Mrs. Moonda’s mother, Dorothy Smouse, was with the Moondas “to make it look good,” Bradford said.

He said Mrs. Moonda also suggested that Bradford shoot her, giving her a flesh wound.

“I was against it, “ Bradford said.

Bradford told how he pulled over behind the Moondas’ gold Jaguar at about 6:30 p.m., approached Dr. Moonda, told him to get back in the car, then asked for his wallet, which Dr. Moonda got from Mrs. Moonda, who had it in her purse.

“When it was handed to me, I fired,” Bradford said. “I shot Dr. Gulam Moonda in the head.”

Bradford fled the scene, telling the toll booth worker at the toll station a few miles down the road that he had lost his toll ticket and wanted to go to Pennsylvania. She allowed him to turn around and head eastbound on the turnpike, he said.

On the way home, Bradford chucked Moonda’s wallet out the window, save for Moonda’s cash, which he kept. The wallet’s contents, including credit and business cards, scattered as they flew, he said. He also threw out the gun, a Witness 9 mm that was later found by police, working from a scene description given by Bradford.

He made drug deals by phone on the way home, where he showered, then got something to eat and attended a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

“I went out to do things to make what had happened not be on my mind,” he said.

Using the money from Dr. Moonda’s wallet — $2,000 to $3,000, Bradford said — he gave some to Ms. McFrazier, bought cocaine that he later sold at a profit, and bought new wheels for his Trail Blazer.

Following the shooting, Mrs. Moonda sent a text message to Bradford that something terrible had happened. That message was meant to show anyone who might later subpoena phone records that she was surprised by the night’s events, he said.

Bradford chose not to respond.

Mrs. Moonda was to give a totally opposite description of the shooter and the vehicle, Bradford said.

They communicated little following the shooting, but Bradford got a ride to Mrs. Moonda’s home at Christmastime 2005. He stayed for a few days.

“We had sexual activity,” he said. “We drank. She gave me some money and the luggage right there,” he said referring to Louis Vuitton pieces sitting in the courtroom.

When the noose tightened around Bradford and he was to go on trial a year ago for killing Dr. Moonda, he pleaded guilty when it became apparent Mrs. Moonda would not stick with the final prong of the deal — to testify that he was not the shooter.

“I lost my star witness,” Bradford said.

“Who was that star witness?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney, Nancy L. Kelley, of Cleveland.

“Donna,” Bradford said.

Through it all, Bradford still loves Mrs. Moonda, he said.

“I just feel betrayed,” he said.

Despite that love, Bradford was already planning to leave Mrs. Moonda, he said. They wanted to get a place to live together, and had looked at a couple of houses, but he only wanted to live with her for a short time.

“Your plan was to take her money, kill her husband and split?” Synenberg asked.

“Yes, sir,” Bradford said.

Bradford got a deal from prosecutors — a recommendation of a 17.5-year prison sentence for killing Dr. Moonda if he testifies truthfully at Mrs. Moonda’s trial. Although the prosecution had presented four previous days of testimony and 30 witnesses — and have not rested their case — Bradford’s testimony is all they have shown that ties Mrs. Moonda to her husband’s death.

As one might expect, Synenberg pounced on Bradford’s claim to be telling the truth. He got Bradford to admit that he had lied under oath twice before.

Bradford testified he was a nonviolent person prior to shooting Dr. Moonda, but Synenberg got him to acknowledge he had broken out someone’s headlights, and always carried a gun.

One of the pay-off items prosecutors said Bradford got was the luggage, but he testified that he had only borrowed it because he was planning a trip out of town.

Bradford began his testimony in a strong baritone, answering questions matter-of-factly. By the end of the day, some five hours later, his voice was weaker and his answers frequently trailed off. He appeared to lose focus, and his answers evolved.

Concerning the Christmastime visit to Hermitage, Bradford had said Mrs. Moonda gave him $2,000 to $3,000.

“She said that was all she had left,” he said. “That’s what she was living off of.”

By the end of the day Monday, he said she still had money left after giving some to him.

Synenberg will resume his cross-examination of Bradford today.

 
 

Conflicting testimony of marriage, crime scene is presented in Day 2 of Moonda trial

By Joe Pinchot - New Castle News

June 22, 2007

The night Dr. Gulam Moonda was shot to death, his wife couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to kill him. “She said she didn’t know why this happened,” Dr. Faroq Moonda, the Moondas’ nephew, said yesterday, the second day of testimony in Donna Moonda’s capital murder case. “They had a perfect marriage,” Faroq Moonda said, paraphrasing Donna Moonda. “They were so much in love.” The Hermitage woman, 48, also called her late husband, 69, the best thing that ever happened to her, he said. She made the same and similar statements after the murder, said Faroq Moonda’s wife, Dr. Afren Moonda, a resident physician. About a week later, however, Faroq Moonda, of Poland, Ohio, heard in media reports that Donna Moonda had had a drug problem and was carrying on an affair. He went to see her. “I wanted to know firsthand,” said Faroq Moonda, who called Gulam Moonda his adoptive father. Donna Moonda told him that she had started abusing prescription drugs when her father died some years earlier. She relapsed once and was fired from her job as a nurse at UPMC Horizon, Greenville.

Suspicions

Faroq Moonda had lived with the Moondas since their marriage in 1990, about 18 months after Faroq Moonda emigrated to the U.S. from India at age 14, until he started college. He said he never knew about the drug use or that she was no longer working. Her nursing license had been suspended. She also said she was having an affair and that her husband knew about it, Faroq Moonda said. “What did Gulam Moonda say about it?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda H. Barr, Youngstown. “We had an understanding,” Faroq Moonda quoted Donna Moonda as saying. Faroq Moonda said he had had some suspicions about the marriage. “Did you believe that Dr. Moonda was unhappy in his marriage?” asked defense attorney Roger M. Synenberg, Cleveland. “You could say that,” responded Faroq Moonda, an anesthesiologist and graduate of Hickory High School, Hermitage.

Crime scene

Faroq and Afren Moonda came upon the May 13, 2005, crime scene along the Ohio Turnpike. Faroq Moonda had flown into Pittsburgh from Philadelphia and was picked up by his wife. They planned to drive to Toledo to spend the night and then look at a house in Bowling Green that Afren Moonda thought they should buy. Gulam Moonda, Donna Moonda and Donna Moonda’s mother, Dorothy Smouse, were heading to Toledo in a separate car. Afren Moonda, who was driving, noticed a gold Jaguar similar to the one her in-laws owned, and someone who looked like Donna Smouse, by the side of the turnpike. Faroq Moonda called a family cellular telephone number and Donna Smouse answered. They turned around and returned to the scene in Cuyahoga County where Gulam Moonda had been shot in the head. Gulam Moonda was being treated in the back of an ambulance at the time, Afren Moonda said. Donna Smouse told them the same story she had told police about the shooting: They had stopped to switch drivers when a man approached Gulam Moonda, pushed him back in the passenger seat, demanded his wallet and then shot him, Faroq Moonda said. Police asked Faroq and Afren Moonda to leave the scene, so they went to a Cleveland hospital, where they later learned that Gulam Moonda had died.

Investigators

Much of the rest of the day’s testimony came from Ohio Highway Patrol officers and troopers, who detailed the investigation. One of the more interesting tidbits to come from what was generally a dry explanation of police procedures was that Charlene McFrazier, the fiancee of Damian Bradford — Bradford has already admitted shooting Gulam Moonda — told police about his relationship with Donna Moonda. Synenberg said in his opening statement Monday that McFrazier had informed Gulam Moonda about the affair.

Five days after the shooting, investigators got two calls that led them to start looking at Bradford. One came from a Pittsburgh police informant, and the second from a state policeman who had talked to a Charlene Farr, later identified as McFrazier, said Lt. Judy Neel, commander of the patrol’s Cleveland investigative unit. Both tips said the same thing: that Donna Moonda had a boyfriend, she was paying for an apartment in Monaca for him and that she was getting divorced, Lt. Neel said. A check of Donna Moonda’s credit history turned up the address in Monaca, which Donna Moonda had used for a transaction under her maiden name, Donna Smouse. Donna Moonda had used her maiden name to make a down payment on a Chevrolet Trail Blazer she bought for Bradford, and her maiden name, along with that of Thomas Case, was on the loan payment book, said Trooper Timothy Robinson.

 
 

Donna Moonda: Mastermind or naive suburban housewife?

Donna Moonda says her husband knew of her affair and was to give her a $1 million divorce settlement

By Laure Cioffi - Vindicator Pennsylvania Bureau

June 19, 2007

AKRON — It was three years ago Monday that Donna Moonda completed her drug rehabilitation and gave her telephone number to a man in her last group session at Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Aliquippa, Pa.

Now she and that man, Damian Bradford, a 25-year-old small-time drug dealer from Beaver County, Pa., are pitted against each other in a federal court over the death of Moonda's millionaire urologist husband from Hermitage, Pa.

Prosecutors say there is no doubt that Bradford shot Dr. Gulam Moonda in the side of the head May 13, 2005, on the Ohio Turnpike berm, killing him. Authorities initially thought it was a random highway robbery.

Now, prosecutors intend to prove over the next few weeks that Donna Moonda was the mastermind behind the plot.

The defense disagrees

But Moonda's defense team tells a different story.

Sure, the 48-year-old unemployed nurse anesthetist had an affair with Bradford, who defense attorneys described as a street savvy criminal. She bought him clothes, jewelry, a vehicle and paid his bills.

But she was a naive suburban housewife who succumbed to Bradford's attention, her attorney Roger Synenberg told jurors Monday in his opening statement.

"You've got Donna who is looking for a job. Damian who doesn't want to work. You've got Donna who is isolated, and Damian who has tons of friends. You've got Donna who suffers from low self esteem and Damian who is cocky," Synenberg said, continuing to rattle off contrasts between the two in his half-hour opening.

Love and money

Synenberg told jurors that Bradford acted alone when he shot Dr. Moonda. Bradford has been offered a 17 1/2 year prison sentence in exchange for his guilty plea and testimony against Moonda at her trial.

"Donna fell in love with Damian. Damian fell in love with Donna's money," Synenberg said.

Synenberg talked about the double life Bradford was leading, spending some time with Donna Moonda, some time with his fiancee Charleen McFrazier and part of the time dealing drugs.

In December 2004, McFrazier had enough, Synenberg said.

"Charleen McFrazier calls Gulam Moonda and tells Gulam Moonda, 'Your wife is having an affair with my fiancé,'" Synenberg said. McFrazier later spent time in federal prison for perjury after initially serving as Bradford's alibi during the time of the shooting.

Alleged plans of divorce

According to Synenberg, the doctor confronted his wife and they then talked about getting a divorce. Moonda's attorney claims her husband was going to give Donna Moonda a $1 million divorce settlement despite a previous prenuptial agreement that stated she would receive only $250,000 in a divorce.

"Gulam was very private and he told no one. Donna told Damian and some of his friends," Synenberg said.

Synenberg told jurors that Bradford acted after the gifts and the money from Donna Moonda started to dry up.

But prosecutors say the two acted together.

Nancy Kelley, assistant U.S. attorney, said the government has cellular telephone records showing that Moonda and Bradford met the day of the shooting around noon in the New Castle area, where he claims she gave him a copy of their driving directions to Toledo. Bradford was later at a Dollar General store near the Moonda's Hermitage home as Gulam, Donna, and her mother, Dorothy Smouse, were leaving for the trip.

A 'rehab romance'

Kelley called Donna Moonda and Bradford's relationship a "rehab romance."

After a long investigation, authorities were convinced that Bradford shot Dr. Moonda. "But if Damian Bradford killed Dr. Moonda, why didn't Donna Moonda identify him?" Kelley asked.

The wife instead told police a man of undetermined race standing 5 foot 3 inches tall and driving a black minivan killed her husband. Bradford is black, stands nearly 6 feet tall and was driving a silver sport utility vehicle she had bought for him.

"He expected to be set for life. They had looked at cars and houses in anticipation of their life together," Kelley said.

Kelley told jurors that Moonda chose Bradford.

"She chose him. He's a criminal. He's a drug dealer. If we had to choose a witness, we wouldn't have chose Damian, but if we were looking to find someone to kill our husband, we might," Kelley said. "He sat in jail for a really long time and didn't talk. And now her attorney can call him a criminal and a liar."

 
 

Donna Moonda to stand trial in June in husband's killing

By Milan Simonich - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

December 9, 2006

AKRON, Ohio -- Donna Moonda, charged with hiring her lover to murder her wealthy husband, will stand trial for her life in June.

Jury selection will start June 4 and testimony probably will begin June 18, U.S. District Judge David Dowd said yesterday, during a meeting with prosecutors and defense lawyers.

Mrs. Moonda, 47, of Mercer County, Pa., could be put to death if she is convicted. Her lover, Damian Bradford, 25, has pleaded guilty to killing Dr. Gulam Moonda on the Ohio Turnpike with a gunshot to the face. He has agreed to testify against her in return for a prison sentence of 171/2 years.

Judge Dowd will call 240 people as potential jurors in Mrs. Moonda's trial. He said the selection process will be slower than a typical case because Mrs. Moonda's life is at stake, an unusual circumstance in the federal courts.

The U.S. government has not executed a female convict since 1953. Just one woman is on death row in the federal system, where 45 prisoners await execution. State governments, mostly in the South, have executed 11 women since 1984.

Judge Dowd said capital cases move more slowly than other trials because lawyers have to prepare for two different proceedings. If Mrs. Moonda is convicted, her attorneys would have to be ready to argue for life instead of death in the sentencing phase.

The jury selection process in capital cases also is more arduous. Judge Dowd said prosecutors and Mrs. Moonda's lawyers each will be able to disqualify up to 20 potential jurors without giving any reason. In a non-capital case, prosecutors can remove six jurors without cause; defense lawyers can disqualify 10.

If the court schedule does not change, Mrs. Moonda's trial would begin more than two years after the slaying of her husband. Mr. Bradford shot Dr. Moonda the evening of May 13, 2005.

Dr. Moonda, 69, had invested wisely and was heavily insured. His wife stood to inherit more than $2.5 million from his death. Had they divorced, a prenuptial contract would have limited her to a settlement of $250,000. Mr. Bradford said she promised him half of her inheritance if he killed her husband.

Mrs. Moonda, pale and many pounds overweight, appeared yesterday for the first time with her three court-appointed lawyers. A Pennsylvania law called the Slayer's Act prevents her from spending the more than $1.8 million that she and her husband had in joint accounts. As a result, taxpayers are footing the bill for her defense.

A federal magistrate in Cleveland has placed the budget for her case under seal, so the estimated cost has not been made public. Her lead attorney, Roger Synenberg, has said a capital case typically costs at least $600,000 to defend.

Despite the graveness of Mrs. Moonda's situation, her morale improved a bit yesterday, Mr. Synenberg said.

"I think she's relieved to have a trial date set," he said.

Because Judge Dowd rejected her request for bail, she has been in an Ohio jail since her arrest in July. She will remain there until her trial.

 
 

Doctor’s wife charged in his murder

Authorities: She hired boyfriend to kill husband, make it look like robbery

Assiciated Press

July 26, 2006

In the days after her millionaire husband was killed, Donna Moonda told her story on the TV news: A stranger approached the couple’s Jaguar on the shoulder of an Ohio highway, took her husband’s wallet, then shot him in the head.

“I heard the most horrible voice that I’ll never, ever forget telling him, ‘Give me your wallet and get in the car,”’ she calmly related, acting out for the camera how the killer went eye-to-eye with her husband.

Now, in a film-noir twist, prosecutors say that the stranger was no stranger but Moonda’s lover — a man she met in drug rehab — and that she promised him millions to kill her 69-year-old husband, Dr. Gulam Moonda.

This week, Donna Moonda, 47, was charged in federal court in Ohio with interstate stalking that resulted in death after the man with the “horrible voice,” Damian Bradford, 25, admitted he was the triggerman and agreed to testify against her. She plans to plead not guilty, her attorney said.

Gulam Moonda, who lived in Hermitage, along the Ohio line, was killed May 13, 2005, after his wife pulled off the Ohio Turnpike near Cleveland, supposedly to let her husband take the wheel.

Gulam Moonda emigrated from India to study medicine and in 1971 became the first urologist in Sharon, a Pennsylvania city of about 16,000. Colleagues remembered him for his friendliness, generosity and great bedside manner — a man who would hang up his patients’ coats as they arrived at his office.

A taste for the high life

When he met his wife-to-be, she was working in a doctor’s office. She later became a nurse anesthetist. Friends say they dated about 10 years before marrying in 1990.

“She liked to dress in expensive clothes, liked to shop. He loved her and treated her like a princess,” said Dr. Ravindra Sachdeva, a surgeon who frequently dined with the Moondas and one of his closest friends.

In 2004, however, Donna Moonda was sentenced to rehab after pleading no contest to stealing the painkiller fentanyl from the hospital where she worked. It was in rehab that she met Bradford, a low-level cocaine dealer from suburban Pittsburgh.

Moonda bought Bradford expensive gifts and paid for his apartment, authorities say. And soon after, they allege, she asked him to kill her husband.

Donna Moonda had signed a prenuptial agreement that limited her to only $250,000 in a divorce. The doctor’s will, however, promised her millions plus $676,000 in insurance policies and their home.

On the day of the killing, Donna Moonda gave Bradford a map of the route the couple planned to take, and sent him a text message when they left home, authorities say.

After Donna Moonda pulled over, Bradford stopped in a car behind them, demanded the doctor’s wallet and shot him. Bradford then drove to the next turnpike exit, turned around and arrived late to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting near his home. The wallet was found months later on the side of the turnpike.

Bradford and the doctor’s widow emerged as suspects within days of the killing. People at the rehab center told police that the couple were in a serious relationship and that she was trying to leave her husband.

Conflicting statements

Also, authorities say Donna Moonda gave conflicting statements about the shooting, misled a motorist who stopped to help about the severity of her husband’s condition, and could not give police a good description of the gunman or his car.

Bradford was arrested on drug charges following a search of his home a week after the slaying. He was already on probation for receiving stolen property. He admitted his role in the shooting and agreed to testify against Moonda to avoid a life sentence.

Moonda had described the gunman as a thin, short man dressed in black; she said she could not tell his race. Bradford is a ruggedly built black man, 6 feet tall.

Five days after Gulam Moonda’s death, his wife sat down in her living room with a reporter from KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh and talked about what happened. She dabbed her eyes as she recalled the holdup.

“When he died that night, I did, too,” she said. “He was always helping everybody and I tried, but I couldn’t help him."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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