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Accused didn't want husband killed: lawyer
By DEAN PRITCHARD - Winnipeg Sun


A Manitoba woman accused of orchestrating the beating death of her husband should be convicted of manslaughter, not first-degree murder, jurors were told Tuesday.

Melody Sanford wanted Ivan (John) Radocaj to be “punished” or beaten, but not killed, defence lawyer Ryan Amy argued in his closing submission to jurors.

Sanford, 47, Donald Richard, 34, and Richard’s mother Rita Cushnie, 56, are on trial charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Crown prosecutors allege Sanford commissioned the killing while Richard, his cousin Daniel Richard and another man, Christopher Houle, carried it out. Cushnie is alleged to have been involved in the murder conspiracy. Houle and Daniel Richard are being prosecuted separately.

Radocaj, 43, a former wrestler once known as the Croatian Giant, was found beaten to death in his Interlake area home on Sept. 14, 2007.

Sanford and Radocaj married earlier that summer and were already separated at the time of his death. Sanford told police he was mentally and physically abusive and had sexually assaulted her adult daughter.

Sanford’s daughter testified that Radocaj did not assault her.

Amy urged jurors to disregard the testimony of prosecution witness Tim Richard, who implicated all three accused in the killing. Tim Richard was also charged with first-degree murder but was later granted immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony.

“He knew in order to stay out of jail he would have to say certain things,” Amy said. “There was a carrot and he followed that carrot all the way to an immunity agreement.” Sanford never planned to kill Radocaj, Amy said. In a police statement following her arrest, Sanford said “I would have been happy if somebody just beat on him.”

“I say that shows Ms. Sanford’s true mind,” Amy said.

Prosecutors allege Sanford arranged to meet Radocaj at a Teulon restaurant so his killers could go to his house and ambush him when he returned.

Donald Richard told police he wanted to leave the house before Radocaj returned home and had no intention of killing him.

“He is not a bad man but he is a criminal,” said defence lawyer John McAmmond, who urged jurors to convict Richard of manslaughter.

Richard’s police statement showed a man “racked with guilt, not a man who intended to kill,” McAmmond said.

Jurors heard no evidence directly tying Cushnie to the killing, said her lawyer Mike Cook.

“Rita was always on the periphery, at best,” Cook said.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberating Wednesday.

RELATED LINKS

  • Archive of Ivan (John) Radocaj stories