Donna Moonda

Donna Moonda

In the years since her husband died in 1998, Dorothy Smouse has relied on her daughter Donna J. Moonda.

Mrs. Moonda has cared for her mother through surgeries for urinary tract cancer, cataracts and carpal tunnel syndrome. She took her mother to doctors’ appointments and shopping, and picked up medication for her.

“She was always very good for me, which I needed,” said Mrs. Smouse, 77, of Hermitage.

With Mrs. Moonda facing the death penalty for hiring her lover, Damian R. Bradford, 26, of Beaver County, to kill her husband, Dr. Gulam H. Moonda, 69, of Hermitage, the thought of that drastic penalty being carried out brought Mrs. Smouse to tears.

“It would just break my heart,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d do.”

Mrs. Moonda’s sisters gave similar responses Monday, the opening day of the sentencing phase of Mrs. Moonda’s trial.

Shirley White, who is younger than Mrs. Moonda by three years, said she always looks to her 48-year-old sister to talk and for encouragement.

“That would be very devastating,” Ms. White said at the thought of Mrs. Moonda being executed. “I consider Donna one of my best friends.”

“It would tear me apart. She’s my sister,” said Janet Scott, 56, of Alexandria, La.

“Devastate me. I don’t even want to think about it. Devastate me,” said Jeanean Russell, 53, of Canton, Ohio.

The seven-woman, five-man jury who convicted Mrs. Moonda of interstate stalking, murder for hire and two gun violations also heard the other side of the coin: what life has been like for those close to Dr. Moonda, who was gunned down on May 13, 2005, along the Ohio Turnpike.

Dr. Faroq Moonda of Poland, Ohio, has lived for more than two years without his uncle and adoptive father, Gulam Moonda. Faroq Moonda said he has become less trusting and more cynical since the day his uncle was killed.

The man Faroq Moonda once called “doctor uncle” was “the most influential man in our family,” Faroq Moonda said.

“I grew up watching him and wanting to be like him,” he said. “I don’t think there was one major decision I made without his consent.”

Faroq Moonda came to the U.S. from India at age 14 after Gulam Moonda asked him if he would like to do so. He lived with the Moondas until he went to college.

Faroq Moonda left behind a large, extended family — Gulam Moonda had three brothers and two sisters and nieces and nephews in India — that had once relied on Gulam Moonda for their very survival.

Gulam Moonda sent large amounts of money home to India.

“Once he was financially stable, he made sure they were financially stable,” Faroq Moonda said.

The money initially put food on the table. Later, it funded family business ventures that eventually turned profitable. Faroq Moonda attributed the mansions and big cars his family members own to Gulam Moonda.

“They’re pretty much all well off now,” Faroq Moonda said.

Gulam Moonda’s generosity also was felt in the United States, which made Faroq Moonda believe that the way he died “doesn’t make any sense.”

“My uncle was very gentle, very generous, very giving,” Faroq Moonda said.

Faroq Moonda said he has met many of his uncle’s former patients, particularly when he worked at the hospital of Sharon Regional Health System, where his uncle had worked for many years. The former patients expressed their condolences and said they still grieve his loss.

“He treated his patients like gold,” Faroq Moonda said.

Dr. Ifthikhar Chatha said he came to the Shenango Valley because of Gulam Moonda, who helped him set up an office and hire staff. The two became close friends who visited or talked on the telephone every day. Chatha, a family doctor, said Dr. Moonda never hesitated to help him with a patient when called and he wasn’t otherwise occupied.

Chatha, a native of Pakistan, said he encouraged Dr. Moonda to get married, which he said is important for religious purposes, and opened his home to the Moonda wedding. Both men were Muslims who worshiped together at a mosque in Youngstown on Fridays, and came to cherish the time as they traveled back and forth to talk about life, their patients and anything else, Chatha said.

Chatha, co-executor of Dr. Moonda’s estate, had a “cardiac event” in the days following Dr. Moonda’s death and had to undergo a catheterization, he said.

Sharon Regional officials have posted reminders of Dr. Moonda at the hospital, and miss the expertise that he, the only urologist in town for years, provided, Chatha said.

“All the medical staff really misses him,” Chatha said.

Dr. Moonda became close to members of Chatha’s family, and his death is still mourned.

“When we have a gathering or special event, he is a topic of conversation,” Chatha said.

For much of Monday’s testimony, the topic of conversation was Mrs. Moonda’s past.

The Smouse family came from Bedford, Pa., and spent a short time in Gibsonia before settling in Hermitage about 34 years ago. Mrs. Moonda was a good girl who was never a discipline problem and wanted to please her parents, said her family and friends.

“She was a good person,” Mrs. Smouse said. “She was a lot of fun. She got along with her sisters.”

Getting a good education and grades were important to Mrs. Moonda, and she was a popular and outgoing person at Hickory High School.

Monday’s hearing turned into a pep rally for Mrs. Moonda as the defense called three women who had been cheerleaders with Mrs. Moonda at Hickory. The friends said she studied hard, stayed away from trouble, was fun and loyal and had an upbeat approach to life.

“I thought she was a great person, a great girl,” said Diane Toomey of East Berlin, Pa.

She also developed a work ethic early on, working at Arby’s and babysitting while in high school, then maintaining jobs while she went to college.

“She always wanted to do her very best,” Mrs. Smouse said.

When Mrs. Moonda attended Duquesne University’s nursing program, she teamed up with Beth Brown. The two went to Hickory, but Mrs. Moonda was a year older and they didn’t come to know each other until college. They rented an apartment together.

“We had kind of a team,” Ms. Brown said. They did just about everything together, from studying to commuting to school to shopping.

“We relied on each other immensely,” she said.

Mrs. Moonda had a similar relationship with Marlene Mataruski of Brookfield when they attended Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, to study for their master’s degrees. They drove together, lived in Case Western dorms on days that they stayed overnight, studied together and worked on a research paper together.

When Mrs. Moonda got married, she drifted away from close contact with many of her friends.

The marriage seemed to be good for both Dr. Moonda and Mrs. Moonda.

“They reminded me of two kids, goofing around and happy,” said Kimberly Jordan of Hadley, a friend of Mrs. Moonda’s.

Mrs. Moonda treated Faroq Moonda like she was his mother and learned to prepare meals he would have eaten in India, Mrs. Smouse said.

Although her life revolved around her family and work, she made extraordinary efforts for her friends in time of need.

Ms. Mataruski said her brother died unexpectedly in 1993, and she was forced to remortgage her home to pay for the funeral. Mr. and Mrs. Moonda sent a large check to help her through the tough time.

“Donna was there emotionally and was there financially in a big way for me,” Ms. Mataruski said.

Ms. Jordan added that Mrs. Moonda managed her family’s household — bringing food, answering the telephone — when her grandmother died so the family could deal with funeral arrangements.

In the Moonda household, Dr. Moonda made all the decisions, Mrs. Moonda’s family members said. When he came home, he expected she would have a plate of fruit or vegetables ready for him to eat, then Mrs. Moonda had to assure there was no noise in the house so he could nap. That meant turning off the telephone and staying in another room.

He also chose what restaurant they would eat at when they went out — which they did frequently, often with friends and family members — as well as the time of dinner and where everyone would sit.

Dr. Moonda also picked out his wife’s clothes, perfume, shoes and purses. He would buy her things, somtimes things she didn’t want.

Although Mrs. Moonda did not complain about her husband’s controls, Deborah Englebaugh of Hermitage said Dr. Moonda once bought his wife a DeLorean car that she refused to accept because it was “way too extravagant.”

“She was a very low-maintenance type of person,” Ms. Englebaugh said. “She was never flashy.”

Even with Dr. Moonda as a husband earning about $600,000 a year, she didn’t splurge on herself.

“I never saw her spend money on herself,” Ms. Russell said. “She was always spending on other people.”

Those close to Mrs. Moonda noticed a change in her when her father, Ross, died in 1998. Mrs. Moonda was very close to her father and collapsed at the hospital when medical personnel turned off his life-support equipment. She took the loss “very badly,” Ms. Englebaugh said.

Mrs. Moonda turned “a little on the reclusive side,” Ms. Mataruski said, and others said that Mrs. Moonda became very difficult to contact. Ms. Jordan said she kept tabs on Mrs. Moonda through friends and co-workers.

The defense has said Mrs. Moonda turned to abusing Fentanyl to deal with the loss, but no family members reported knowing about her addiction to the pain killer, the later loss of her nursing job for stealing Fentanyl, or her relationship with Bradford.

“She never complained about nothing,” Mrs. Smouse said, a sentiment backed up by her other daughters.

In her opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy L. Kelley said she believed prosecutors had shown that Mrs. Moonda fits a death penalty case. She stressed that the murder plot had developed over several months, and the roadside shooting was the second attempt on Dr. Moonda’s life.

“This was not a plan hatched in the heat of the moment,” she said.

Defense attorney David L. Grant said the jury has the choice of “several extreme punishments” — death, life in prison or a recommendation on some of the charges of a lesser prison term, of which a judge would determine the length.

“It’s simply not right, not just and not appropriate to impose the death penalty in this particular case,” Grant said.

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