AKRON, Ohio – The wife of a wealthy doctor did not fire the gun that killed him along the Ohio Turnpike two years ago, but her actions were as serious, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.
"It was Donna Moonda who planned, helped, pulled the car to the side of the road — those actions were just as deadly," assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Kelley said in her opening statement
Kelley laid out the events that have been widely reported in the May 13, 2005, slaying of Gulam Moonda, 69, along the turnpike south of Cleveland. She faces the death penalty if convicted of murder for hire and other counts in the death of her husband.
Kelley said Moonda, 48, of Hermitage, Pa., told investigators she didn't recognize the admitted triggerman — Damian Bradford, 25, a one-time lover who pleaded guilty in July to interstate stalking and a gun charge — and that she intentionally gave an inaccurate description of the gunman's height, authorities said.
Moonda told authorities the shooter was about 5-foot-4 like her husband. Bradford is about 5-10. Investigators also say it was implausible that she didn't recognize his voice, even though she told a trooper that there was "so much hate in his voice."
Bradford says Moonda hired him to kill her husband and promised to split any inheritance with him. "He expected to get enough money to be set for life," Kelley said.
Kelley said the prosecution would show how a series of cell phone calls between Moonda and Bradford in the hours before the killing would help pinpoint their locations.
Bradford, also known by the street name "Kaos," will be the key witness for the prosecution. Federal court documents say Bradford, of Beaver County, Pa., and Moonda began an affair in 2004 after meeting in drug rehab. He will serve a 17 1/2-year prison sentence in exchange for cooperating with authorities.
Bradford says on the day of the killing, Moonda gave him a map of the couple's planned route. The documents state Moonda text-messaged Bradford's cell phone to alert him when they left the Pittsburgh area around 4:30 p.m.
Moonda complained of nausea and pulled off the turnpike so her husband could drive their Jaguar, authorities said. As the doctor left the vehicle, Bradford ordered him back in, demanded his wallet and shot him in the side of the face.
Moonda's attorney, Roger Synenberg, has said Bradford acted alone.
Synenberg painted a picture for the jury of an innocent woman and a hardworking nurse who got romantically involved with a street thug. Synenberg used words such as "suburban housewife," "naive," and "vulnerable" to describe Moonda and said she began abusing prescription narcotics following the death of her father and her mother's ordeal with cancer.
Synenberg described Bradford, a convicted drug dealer, as a "ladies' man" and a "predator."
"Donna fell in love with Damian and Damian fell in love with Donna's money," Synenberg said.
Synenberg said soon after they became friends in 2004, Moonda gave Bradford $8,000, which he used to get a car and rent an apartment. The two saw each other several times a week and frequently communicated by cell phone and text messages.
Synenberg told jurors that the day of the slaying was a normal day for the Moondas until they pulled to the side of the turnpike.
Donna Moonda performed CPR on her husband after he was shot and he still had a pulse when an ambulance crew arrived 20 minutes later. "She tried to keep him alive," Synenberg said.
Synenberg said that Bradford, facing a possible death sentence if he had been prosecuted in state court, decided to turn on his lover. "Damian Bradford realized he was trapped, he was cornered and that he held the key to his self-preservation," Synenberg said.
Moonda, being held without bond, also is charged with interstate stalking and two counts of using or carrying a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.
Testimony is expected to last two weeks in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr.