September 18, 2014

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Murder-for-hire trials start in Akron

Woman accused of having doc/hubby killed on turnpike
Joe Milicia
The Associated Press
AKRON — The prosecution’s case sounds like the plot from a made-for-TV movie: a woman persuades her young lover to gun down her wealthy husband and promises to share millions of dollars from his estate.
The defense for Donna Moonda contends that the prosecutors’ case is just as unlikely as any TV drama.
Moonda’s trial begins today in federal court, where the 48-year-old could face the death penalty if convicted of murder for hire and other counts in the death of her husband, Dr. Gulam Moonda, 69, a successful urologist. She has pleaded not guilty.
The trial is expected to last a month, with jury selection beginning today before U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr.
Dr. Moonda was shot May 13, 2005, when the couple pulled off the Ohio Turnpike south of Cleveland. Her lover, Damian Bradford, 25, pleaded guilty in July to interstate stalking and a gun charge and says that Moonda hired him to kill her husband and promised to split any inheritance with him.
An affidavit implies that she had a financial motive to see her husband dead: she signed a prenuptial agreement before they wed in 1990 that limited her to only $250,000 in a divorce, but the doctor’s will promised his wife millions plus $676,000 in insurance policies and their home.
Bradford, also known by the street name “Kaos,” will be the key witness for the prosecution. He will serve a 17½-year prison sentence in exchange for cooperating with authorities. Federal court documents say Bradford, of Beaver County, Pa., and Moonda, of Hermitage, Pa., began an affair in 2004 after meeting in drug rehab.
Bradford says on the day of the killing she gave him a map of the Moondas’ planned route. The documents state Donna Moonda text-messaged Bradford’s cell phone to alert him when they left the Pittsburgh area around 4:30 p.m.
Donna Moonda complained of nausea and pulled off the turnpike so her husband could drive their Jaguar, authorities said. As the doctor exited the vehicle, Bradford ordered him back in, demanded his wallet and shot him in the side of the face, authorities said.
A hunter found Dr. Moonda’s wallet in the woods along the highway, and authorities recovered the gun after Bradford revealed its location.
Moonda’s lawyer, Roger Synenberg, is a prominent Cleveland defense attorney who in November helped win the acquittal of two brokers accused of giving bribes to a high ranking official in the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
Synenberg won the case — also in Dowd’s courtroom — by discrediting a key witness who admitted taking bribes while the chief financial officer of the scandal-ridden workers comp bureau.
Synenberg will have to do the same thing with Bradford during Moonda’s trial. He declined to comment on the case, but after Moonda was charged last July, Synenberg said he would show that Bradford, a low-level cocaine dealer from suburban Pittsburgh, is a liar with no credibility.
Moonda, who is 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.