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Police: Arrested man knew victim's wife
By Mike Wereschagin
A Beaver County man arrested on a probation violation during the investigation into the roadside murder of a Mercer County doctor had a relationship with the victim's wife, according to police.
Damian Bradford, 23, of Center Township, was arrested Friday after state police, looking for evidence in the slaying of Dr. Gulam Moonda, searched Bradford's two cars and apartment and found drug paraphernalia.
Bradford isn't being called a suspect, but the Ohio State Highway Patrol has interviewed him and considers him to be a "person of interest" in Moonda's death, said highway patrol Lt. Rick Zwayer.
Moonda, 65, of Hermitage, was killed May 13 on the Ohio Turnpike near the Cleveland suburb of North Royalton while driving to Toledo with his wife, Donna, 46, and mother-in-law, Dorothy Smouse, 74, also of Hermitage.
Two confidential informants at a Beaver County drug rehabilitation program near Aliquippa told investigators that Bradford and Donna Moonda were involved in a relationship, according to the affidavit for the search warrant.
According to the affidavit:
The informants said Bradford and Moonda met at Gateway Rehabilitation Center. One said she rented a nearby apartment for Bradford and the other said she bought him clothing, shoes and other expensive items. Police confirmed that she had recently rented an apartment.
One informant said Moonda was trying to divorce her husband and "would receive $3 million to $4 million in the divorce settlement."
The informant said the relationship had been going on for several months. The other informant said Moonda called the relationship serious.
Authorities said Donna Moonda pulled their 2000 Jaguar to the side of the road to switch drivers, and a dark-colored van pulled up behind them. A man got out of the van, demanded money and, after getting cash from Gulam Moonda, shot the doctor in the head.
"We would like to know more information regarding (Bradford's) whereabouts on that particular day," Zwayer said Monday.
Pennsylvania State Police got a search warrant for Bradford after learning that he and Donna Moonda "had a relationship," said Ohio State Trooper Joe Mannion. The Ohio State Highway Patrol and Pennsylvania State Police are investigating the case together.
"We received information on Damian that he might be involved in this case," Mannion said, stressing that Bradford was not a suspect, but a "person of interest."
When Pennsylvania State Police searched Bradford's belongings, they found a black backpack containing vials of anabolic steroids, hypodermic needles and a scale covered in white powder.
Bradford was arrested on drug charges and for a probation violation and was being held in the Beaver County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond.
Bradford was arrested in 2001 and pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, for which he was sentenced to three years' probation. In 2003, he was arrested again and pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance. He was fined $250 plus court costs and given another year of probation, according to Beaver County court records.
Donna Moonda has had her own problems with the law. She was arrested last June on drug possession charges and, after reaching a deal with prosecutors, pleaded no contest. She was sentenced to three years' probation and required to get treatment from Gateway.
Investigators from both state police departments last night continued to scour the area around Bradford's apartment and interview neighbors -- many of whom said they never saw much of Damian Bradford.
"What little contact we had was very pleasant," said Cherie Mitchell, rental manager of the Colonial Arms complex, a sprawling group of four apartment buildings in Center Township. "It's a very scary situation."
A man who answered the door at the Moonda residence yesterday afternoon said the family has no comment.
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Judge cuts sentence for figure in Moonda case
Friday, October 28, 2005
Damian R. Bradford went to court yesterday on a probation violation, but used the opportunity to say he is innocent of the May murder of Dr. Gulam Moonda on the Ohio Turnpike. "I'm not a bad guy," Mr. Bradford said. "I have not involved myself in violent crimes."
Mr. Bradford, 24, testified under oath in Beaver County as part of a hearing at which prosecutors sought to keep him in jail for up to three more years for violating conditions of his probation.
Common Pleas Judge John D. McBride decided the state did not prove six of its seven allegations against Mr. Bradford. So he imposed a lesser sentence of six to 231/2 months that could allow Mr. Bradford to go free as soon as next month. Mr. Bradford has been in jail for five months already, since his arrest and subsequent conviction for possession of illegal steroids.
After taking the witness stand in his own defense, Mr. Bradford spoke publicly for the first time since police branded him "a person of interest" in the May 13 shooting death of Dr. Moonda.
Mr. Bradford described himself as "a recovering addict" who has not used recreational drugs in 18 months. A bodybuilder with an interest in professional wrestling, Mr. Bradford admitted that he had small amounts of anabolic steroids in three containers when police raided his apartment May 20.
Investigators were looking not for drugs, but for evidence tying Mr. Bradford to the Moonda murder case. Pennsylvania State Police say Mr. Bradford was in a relationship with Dr. Moonda's wife, Donna, in the months before her husband was killed by an unknown gunman.
Mr. Bradford and Donna Moonda, 46, met last year in a drug rehabilitation program. His addiction was to cocaine and hers to the painkiller fentanyl. She admitted stealing the drug from a Mercer County hospital where she worked as a nurse anesthetist.
Gulam Moonda, who was 69 when he died, practiced urology for 35 years in Mercer County. Whether he knew his wife was seeing Mr. Bradford in Beaver County is unknown.
Mr. Bradford's lawyers argued yesterday that the steroid charge was a minor matter, but it gave police and prosecutors an opening to jail him and pressure him about Dr. Moonda's murder.
Beaver County's Adult Probation and Parole Department had claimed that one of Mr. Bradford's probation violations was leaving Pennsylvania and entering Ohio. An implication of this charge was that Mr. Bradford might have traveled to Ohio the evening Dr. Moonda was shot dead.
Assistant District Attorney Ronald DiGiorno opened yesterday's hearing by withdrawing the claim that Mr. Bradford had been in Ohio. Mr. DiGiorno said all he had was "hearsay," not solid proof.
The state also faltered on another claim it brought against Mr. Bradford. Judge McBride said he would not consider testimony that Mr. Bradford tied up and assaulted his girlfriend, Charlene McFrazier, in September 2004. That charge against Mr. Bradford was dismissed after he completed an anger management program.
Ms. McFrazier was in court yesterday in a show of support for Mr. Bradford.
Mr. Bradford initially was on probation because he pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm. He still owes about $3,000 in criminal fines, which the state said constituted another probation violation. Judge McBride said most of the state's case amounted to technical violations that had not been proved.
"By no means is this the worst probation violation case I have seen this year or even this day," Judge McBride said. He ruled that the admission of guilt in the steroid case was the only clear-cut probation violation. Judge McBride said Mr. Bradford's jail sentence for the violation is to run concurrently with time he is serving for his steroid conviction.
Mr. Bradford's lawyers were ecstatic. They can petition the court for his release Nov. 21, after he has completed his minimum six-month sentence. Almost six months have passed since Dr. Moonda's slaying, and no one has been charged in his death.
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“Person of interest” in physician's murder released
By Michael Hasch
The Beaver County man who has been called a “person of interest” in the slaying of a millionaire Mercer County physician will be released from jail today.
Damian Ray Bradford, 24, who was being held on unrelated charges of steroid possession, was granted parole today by Beaver County Judge John D. McBride.
Bradford, of Center, has been labeled a “person of interest” in the May 13 shooting death of Dr. Gulam Moonda, 69, of Hermitage. Moonda was shot along the Ohio Turnpike, near Cleveland. No one has been charged with the killing.
Bradford was arrested after police found three vials of anabolic steroids while searching his apartment for evidence in the Moonda murder.
He was labeled a “person of interest” by the Ohio State Highway Patrol because of his relationship with Moonda’s wife, Donna. Bradford and Donna Moonda, 46, met in a Beaver County drug rehabilitation facility.
Bradford was sentenced to six to 12 months in jail for the steroid possession charge. He also was ordered to serve six to 23 ½ months in jail for violating the terms of his probation on an unrelated weapons charge filed several years ago in Aliquippa, Beaver County.
He became eligible for parole Monday. Parole was granted without opposition from the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office or authorities from Ohio.
“Nov. 19 (was) my birthday,” said Bradford’s mother, Sharon Bradford, who turned 51. “My son is out of jail. This is my birthday gift.”
Bradford’s attorney, James M. Ecker of Pittsburgh, called Damian Bradford “a good kid. The person of interest, I hope, is no longer a person of interest in that other case.”
Man arrested in murder probe to stand trial for alleged assault
McKEESPORT, Pa. - A man arrested during the investigation of the murder of a doctor on the Ohio turnpike last year will stand trial for allegedly assaulting a police officer.
Damian R. Bradford waived his preliminary hearing Monday on charges he assaulted a McKeesport officer while being arrested for public drunkenness on Thursday.
An officer said Bradford resisted attempts to cuff him and elbowed him in the face. Bradford's lawyer in the assault case, Michael DeRiso, said he believes police have a weak case.
Bradford's bond was lowered from $100,000 straight cash to 10 percent of $10,000. However, he remained jailed because the arrest violated his parole from a drug conviction in Beaver County that stemmed from the investigation into the shooting death of Dr. Gulam Moonda.
Authorities discovered illegal steroids in Bradford's home during a search that was part of the Moonda investigation. Bradford has not been charged in Moonda's death.
Moonda, 69, a urologist from Hermitage, was killed May 13 along the Ohio turnpike near Cleveland while traveling with his wife, Donna, and her mother. Investigators said Bradford began a relationship with Donna Moonda after meeting her in a Beaver County drug rehabilitation facility.
Bradford was released from jail in November after serving time for steroid possession and a previous probation violation.
Ohio officials have labeled Bradford as "a person of interest," in Moonda's death, while one of his attorneys, James Ecker, insists that his client is a suspect.