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.
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.”