A federal judge ruled Donna Moonda, as an eyewitness to her husband’s killing last year along the Ohio Turnpike, is obligated to testify at the upcoming trial of the accused triggerman.

The widow of Dr. Gulam Moonda, however, has the option of invoking her Fifth Amendment rights and not responding to questions by prosecutors or defense attorneys that would suggest she had a role in the killing, Judge David Dowd Jr. ruled Thursday.

Mrs. Moonda’s former lover, Damian Bradford, 24, is scheduled to stand trial July 24 in Akron on charges of interstate stalking and using a firearm during the crime that left Moonda, 69, dead along the highway south of Cleveland.

Prosecutors say they have cell phone records that show Bradford and Mrs. Moonda, 47, talked the day she pulled her car to the side of the busy toll road so that her husband could drive.

She told police another vehicle pulled in behind them and a man then robbed the longtime Shenango Valley urologist of his wallet, shot him once in the face and fled.

Neither Mrs. Moonda nor her mother, Dorothy Smouse, a back-seat passenger in the 2000 Jaguar, could provide a detailed description of the shooter.

Prosecutors at a pretrial hearing last month identified the mother-daughter pair as the only eyewitnesses to the shooting. They also announced the women are on their list of about 50 witnesses they plan to have testify during the trial that is expected to last up to two weeks.

Mrs. Moonda’s defense attorney, Niki Schwartz, asked Dowd to schedule a pretrial conference to determine whether Mrs. Moonda is obligated to testify at Bradford’s trial and, if so, whether she can assert her Fifth Amendment privilege.

Dowd issued his ruling Thursday in lieu of a conference that he said is not necessary.

In his opinion, Dowd also said that only Mrs. Moonda, and not her attorney, could exercise her Fifth Amendment rights while on the witness stand.

Dowd set a Tuesday deadline for Schwartz, Mrs. Moonda or prosecutors to file briefs supporting or challenging his decision.

Schwartz has maintained Mrs. Moonda’s innocence since the killing. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Mrs. Moonda met Bradford in 2004 at a drug-rehabilitation center as part of her probation after she admitted in court to stealing the painkiller fentanyl from UPMC Horizon in Greenville, where she worked as a nurse.

During their investigation into Moonda’s death, police seized a copy of the couple’s prenuptial agreement and the will the doctor was revising at the time of his death.

Under the terms of the valid will, Mrs. Moonda was due to receive 20 percent — or what police say is $1.2 million — of her husband’s $6 million estate.

Bradford’s defense attorneys have maintained his innocence. He remains held without bond in the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown.

Trending Video