Jurors will remain sequestered until they reach a decision.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
AKRON — Prosecutors contend that while Donna Moonda may no longer have been in love with her husband, she was still in love with his money.
And that is what motivated the 48-year-old Mercer County woman to recruit her 25-year-old lover to shoot and kill her husband.
Jurors spent Thursday evening deliberating Moonda’s fate in the shooting death of her 69-year-old husband, Dr. Gulam Moonda. Dr. Moonda was shot in the head on the side of the Ohio Turnpike on May 13, 2005.
Defense attorneys spent much of their closing arguments talking about the character of the gunman, Damian Bradford.
Bradford, a small-time drug dealer from Beaver County, Pa., was offered a 171⁄2-year prison sentence in exchange for his testimony against Moonda. Moonda could be put to death if convicted.
Her attorneys contend Bradford acted alone and Moonda failed to recognize him during the shooting.
“It was a spontaneous decision made by a ’roided-up drug addict who needed to buy drugs,” said defense attorney Roger Synenberg.
But the plan to kill Dr. Moonda could have never worked without his widow’s help, Linda Barr, assistant U. S. attorney, told jurors.
“This simple plan would have never worked if the defendant were not the one driving. This plan only worked with the defendant in charge of the vehicle,” Barr said in her final argument of the day. Barr and co-prosecutor Nancy Kelley gave an initial closing argument to jurors when court began Thursday morning.
Donna Moonda was driving the family Jaguar to Toledo when she pulled into an emergency stopping lane. She told police a robber shot her husband.
Prosecutors claim she tried to mislead investigators by telling them that the killer was her husband’s height — 5 feet, 4 inches — and was driving a dark minivan.
Bradford is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and testified he was driving a silver Chevrolet Trailblazer that Donna Moonda bought him.
Bradford and Moonda became lovers after meeting in a drug rehabilitation program she entered after being charged with stealing drugs from UPMC Hospital in Greenville, Pa., where she was a nurse anesthetist.
Moonda, however, never told her mother or other family members that she had lost her job and nursing license because of the charges. Family members learned the truth only from media reports after Dr. Moonda’s death.
Morality versus law
Barr spent much of her first closing argument listing the litany of Moonda’s lies to friends, family and even Bradford.
Donna Moonda sobbed as Barr talked about the double life the doctor’s wife led.
“What lies she must have told her husband, her mother, her sisters. The lies she had to tell to hide the fact that she was having sex with a 22-year-old 50 miles away,” Barr said. Moonda even told her boyfriend she was 31 when she was 45 years old.
But the defense tried to play down Moonda’s infidelity and lies.
“This is not a court of morality. This is a court of law,” Synenberg said.
Synenberg characterized Moonda as a woman who made bad decisions.
“Admittedly, she made a lot of mistakes in her life. Undoubtedly, Damian Bradford was the worst one,” her attorney said.
Synenberg told jurors that there is no question that Dr. Moonda would still be alive if the defendant and Bradford had not met in drug rehabilitation.
“That does not make Donna Moonda responsible,” he said.
But prosecutors say Moonda chose Bradford and that his only motivation for killing the doctor was at his lover’s urging and the promise of half the doctor’s million dollar estate.
Donna Moonda had paid for Bradford’s apartment, vehicle, jewelry and clothing before the doctor’s death.
“Damian Bradford had everything he wanted. The only way it was going to get better was to kill Dr. Moonda and share in the proceeds,” Barr said.
A bad plan, lawyers say
Synenberg called the alleged plot a bad one. He told jurors that Donna Moonda is innocent because she brought her elderly mother on the trip and “spouses usually don’t put themselves at the scene of the crime” when planning murder.
Prosecutors agree it wasn’t a good plan, but say there were many signs to indicate she was involved.
Barr said that the day before the shooting, Donna Moonda told her parole officer about threats her husband had received months earlier and that Moonda and Bradford had exchanged text messages concerning vacations and their life together — something that could not have happened if Dr. Moonda were still alive.
Prosecutors said Donna Moonda wanted a sure thing, rather than a messy divorce where the amount of assets she received would be unsure.
“Donna Moonda chose Damian Bradford. Two minds were set on murder. Two people stood to benefit. Two fingers were on that gun, and two people must be held accountable,” Barr said.
Jurors will be sequestered until they reach a decision.