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US woman convicted for killing hubby

The woman offered her lover a share of her wealthy Indian husband's estate if he would kill him.
AP | By Joe Milicia, Akron, Ohio
UPDATED ON JUL 07, 2007 05:17 PM IST

An American woman accused of offering her younger lover a share of her husband's multimillion-dollar estate if he would kill the 69-year-old Indian doctor was convicted of murder-for-hire and other charges.

The defense had argued that Donna Moonda's 25-year-old lover, Damian Bradford, had acted alone and that Moonda had tried to revive her doctor husband after Bradford shot him along the Ohio turnpike. Federal prosecutors said the two were in it together and portrayed Moonda as a perpetual liar, thief and drug user.

Moonda quietly cried when the verdict was read on Friday. The 48-year-old former nurse could receive the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Bradford, the key witness, has admitted to shooting Dr Gulam Moonda in the side of the head on May 13, 2005, after his wife pulled over on the turnpike south of Cleveland, supposedly to let her husband take the wheel.

The jury also convicted Moonda of interstate stalking and two counts of using or carrying a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.

As US District Judge David D Dowd Jr read the four guilty verdicts, Moonda went from holding back tears, to shaking her head to quietly sobbing, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. Jurors deliberated about 8 hours over two days after more than two weeks of testimony.

Moonda's defense was that Bradford, a convicted drug dealer, robbed and killed the doctor in a steroid-fueled rage.

Bradford met Donna Moonda in drug rehab, according to court records. Bradford has pleaded guilty to interstate stalking and a gun charge and is expected to receive a 17 1/2-year sentence in exchange for his cooperation.

He testified that on the day of the shooting, he followed the couple as they left their home in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, near the Ohio state line and pulled in behind them when Donna Moonda stopped their Jaguar along the turnpike. He said he ran to the passenger side of the car and shot the doctor.

Other key evidence cited by prosecutors were a series of phone calls and text messages between Bradford and Moonda the day of the killing, up until she and her husband left on their trip. The plot was set off the day of the shooting when Moonda sent him a text message that said, "I'm getting some water," Bradford testified.

Prosecutors told the jury that Moonda grew tired of marriage to the doctor more than 20 years her senior, but was still in love with his money.

"She wanted to get what was owed to her," Bradford said on the witness stand.

The defense contended that Moonda could have received $1.3 million (euro960,000) to $1.5 million (euro1.1 million) in a divorce settlement. But prosecutors said she did not know that and believed she would have been limited to $250,000 (euro183,877) by a prenuptial agreement. The doctor, worth more than $3 million (euro2.21 million), also had life insurance policies totaling $676,000 (euro497,205). The jury of seven women and five men that convicted Moonda will return to the federal court on July 16 for a hearing to determine her sentence.

Donna Moonda's sisters left the courthouse without commenting. The doctor's family was not present in the court for the verdict.

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