'Fatal Vows' series focuses on local doctor's murder

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In 2005, a successful Mercer County doctor steered his Jaguar off the interstate near Cleveland to let his wife take the wheel. Another vehicle drove up behind them and a man got out, wielding a gun.

What happened next was never in dispute: the gunman asked for the doctor's wallet, then shot him in the face, killing him. He left behind the wife and her mother, who was sitting in the back seat of the car.

So began one of the most sensational local crime stories in modern history.

What initially appeared to be a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time quickly unraveled for Hermitage native Donna Moonda, whose husband, Gulam, was the victim.

Police discovered the gunman, Damian Bradford, had been Mrs. Moonda's lover for more than a year. They also found out that due to a prenuptial agreement between Donna and Gulam, who was more than 20 years her senior, she stood to gain only a fraction of his worth should they divorce.

Is it any surprise their story was made into an episode of Investigation Discovery network's "Fatal Vows"?

The show premiered at 10 p.m. Saturday, with repeats throughout the upcoming week, including at noon today.

Titled "Lies and Death," it is described this way on the network website: "Their romance thrives, until a mystery gunman blows away the facade of perfection."

"Fatal Vows" episodes are centered around dramatic re-creations of events, with sprinkles of interviews from the subjects' friends, relatives and acquaintances.

Also weighing in are series regulars Stacy Kaiser, a psychotherapist, and Brian Russell, a forensic psychologist.

This is not "60 Minutes." The emphasis is on love gone wrong, between the Moondas and between Mrs. Moonda and Bradford, whom Mrs. Moonda met at a drug rehab clinic. Then there is Charlene McFrazier, Bradford's fiance, who would later perjure herself by supplying an alibi for him on the night of the killing.

A press statement from Henry Schleiff, general manager of Investigation Discovery, notes that ID is the "home of the 'love gone wrong' genre and calls the show a "guilty pleasure" series.

"[It] showcases stories that go from the altar to six feet under," Mr. Schleiff said.

Indeed, no lurid details are spared. The story begins with 19-year-old Donna Smouse, an unabashed Daddy's Girl, going to work in a medical facility and falling in love with Gulam Moonda, a urologist.

According to the TV series, Dr. Moonda woos her with a DeLorean automobile, and they date for 12 years before marrying in late 1990.

At age 44, devastated by the death of her father and suffering from back problems, Mrs. Moonda began stealing fentanyl at work. "Donna, once the all-Ameican cheerleader, is now a full-on drug addict," intones a narrator in a voiceover.

More than a year after the killing, federal prosecutors in Akron, Ohio, were able to flip Bradford as a witness. He's now serving a 171/2-year sentence in a correctional facility in Ray Brook, N.Y.

Mrs. Moonda is in a women's facility in Danbury, Conn. She avoided the death penalty and is serving a life sentence without hope of parole. In early 2011, however, she filed a motion in District Court to vacate her conviction and sentence.

It was denied three months later.

Fans of true-life crime stories -- how did Lifetime miss making a movie from this one? -- will be intrigued. For locals who remember details of the case, the show is a reminder that sometimes "till death do we part" is taken not just literally, but with a sense of purpose.

tvradio

Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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