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Croatian Giant's ex-wife charged with first-degree murder
By DEAN PRITCHARD - Winnipeg Sun


Big John Radocaj prepares to compete in a Winnipeg sumo bout. (NEW BRAND WRESTLING ARCHIVES)


A sentencing hearing for a woman expected to plead guilty to conspiring to kill her ex-husband was derailed yesterday after the Crown announced it was now charging her with an additional count of first-degree murder.

Melody Lynn Sanford, 44, has been in custody 16 months charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the death of her ex-husband Ivan (John) Radocaj, 43, a former wrestler known as the "Croatian Giant."

Sanford had not yet entered a plea to the charge but she was expected to plead guilty today.

Sanford and her lawyers only learned of the new charge Monday.

"It was the understanding of Ms. Sanford that an agreement had been reached," said her lawyer Ryan Amy. "We are not sure at this point what the next step for Ms. Sanford will be."

Sitting in the prisoner's box, Sanford appeared visibly upset and broke into tears at the closing of court.

Sanford remains in custody and her case has been adjourned to Jan. 4, 2010, the same day five co-accused are set to begin a preliminary hearing.

Radocaj was found beaten to death in his Komarno home Sept. 14, 2007.

According to court documents, Rodocaj and Sanford married that summer and spent just three weeks together before Sanford filed for divorce in August.

In an affidavit filed after the homicide, Radocaj's father, Josip, said Sanford threatened Ivan Radocaj that she could have him killed. In an interview with the Winnipeg Sun, Sanford denied making the threat.

Ivan Radocaj feared for his life and asked his father to help him get a gun for protection, the affidavit stated.

The affidavit stated Ivan Radocaj told his dad Sept. 12 that Sanford had called and asked "to meet to settle matters." Sanford previously said she had last seen Radocaj alive at a Teulon restaurant the evening of Sept. 12.

Radocaj accused Sanford of marrying him for his money, court documents stated.