LIFE IN PRISON: AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A federal jury spared a woman the death penalty Wednesday for hiring her lover to kill her wealthy husband, choosing a life sentence without parole instead.
Donna Moonda, 48, who was convicted of murder-for-hire earlier this month, quietly cried upon learning her sentence.
Federal prosecutors said she had promised her drug dealer boyfriend, Damian Bradford, half of Dr. Gulam Moonda's multimillion-dollar estate in return for the killing. Bradford, 26, shot the 69-year-old urologist on May 13, 2005, along the Ohio Turnpike south of Cleveland.
Moonda's attorney David Grant had asked jurors not to sentence her to death because she suffers from a personality disorder and because Bradford, who pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors, was sentenced to just 17½ years in prison.
Prosecutor Linda Barr said Moonda deserved a death sentence because she had her husband killed for the worst possible reason - money.
Jurors apparently had thought about a lesser sentence. About three hours into their deliberations, they asked if they could consider a sentence besides death or life without parole, but Judge David D. Dowd Jr. told them they could not. They returned a decision about an hour later.
U.S. Attorney Greg White said he believed the jury's decision had been influenced by Bradford's sentence. "Some things are distasteful in law enforcement," he said of the deal with Bradford.
Bradford, of Monaca, Pa., met Moonda in drug rehab. He testified during Moonda's trial that he followed the couple from their Hermitage, Pa., home near the Ohio state line and shot the doctor in the side of the head after Donna Moonda pulled over on the turnpike, supposedly to let her husband take the wheel.
Donna Moonda's mother, Dorothy Smouse, was sitting in the back seat of the car when Gulam Moonda was shot. A tearful Smouse, 77, and her daughter were given a private moment after the jury issued its recommendation, which the judge cannot change.
Moonda, who is to be formally sentenced Sept. 17, plans to appeal her conviction, Grant said.
A longtime colleague of Gulam Moonda's said he is satisfied with the jury's decision.
"I feel sorry for her family. I hope they can get over what she did," said Dr. Ravi Sachdeva, a surgeon who worked with the late doctor at Sharon Regional Health System in Sharon, Pa.