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Accused killers duped by victim's wife, court hears
By PAUL TURENNE - Winnipeg Sun


Melody Sanford duped her husband’s accused killers into believing he was a violent, dangerous man who wouldn’t leave her alone, one of the men claimed in a police interview video played for jurors Wednesday.

“It was so easy to feel sorry for her,” Donald Richard told police following his January 2008 arrest.

Ivan (John) 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 claimed Radocaj had threatened her with a rifle and had sexually assaulted her adult daughter, Richard said.

“Everybody’s thinking this guy is a big bad guy,” Richard said. “We were all trying to be helpful, sympathetic.”

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

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

Richard said he and the other men agreed to beat Radocaj but denied they ever planned to kill him. Richard said on one occasion they drove out to Radocaj’s home but they had been drinking and got lost. On another occasion they attempted to break into the house but were defeated by a deadbolt and a barking dog.

“We were the worst goddamn criminals out there,” he 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.

Richard said it was his cousin Daniel who came up with the plan to break into the house while Radocaj was away.

Richard said he and the others were looting the house for valuables when they received a phone call alerting them Radocaj was on his way home.

When Radocaj arrived the men were armed with two crowbars, a pipe, and a bat they found in the house, Richard said. Houle struck Radocaj first, Richard testified.

The Crown closed its case Wednesday afternoon and the defence teams for the three accused called no evidence. Jurors will return to court Tuesday to hear closing arguments.

RELATED LINKS

  • Archive of Ivan (John) Radocaj stories