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, 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.
upholds Moonda conviction
Vidonik - Timesonline.com
CINCINNATI — 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
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
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
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
"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.
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
Ohio jurors deliberate in trial of woman accused
of hiring lover to kill husband
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,
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
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
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
"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.
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
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.
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
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
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,
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?”
“Yes, sir,” Bradford said.
“You had no problems with that plan?” Synenberg
“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
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
“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
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,
“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
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
"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
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.
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
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."
AKRON, Ohio -- Donna Moonda, charged with hiring
her lover to murder her wealthy husband, will stand trial for her life
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
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,"
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.
Authorities: She hired boyfriend to kill husband,
make it look like robbery
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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."