December 16, 2011
Life sentence for Radocaj killing
By DEAN PRITCHARD - Winnipeg Sun

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

WINNIPEG - A 22-year-old Winnipeg man was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for his part in the murder-for-hire killing of Ivan Radocaj.

Christopher Houle previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

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.

“The degree of brutality is quite frightening,” said Justice Colleen Suche. “Nobody should die in such circumstances.”

Suche ordered that Houle serve a minimum of 10 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

In October, a jury convicted Radocaj’s ex-wife Melody Sanford, 47, Donald Richard, 34, and Richard’s mother Rita Cushnie, 56, of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.


At trial, jurors heard evidence that Sanford commissioned the killing while Richard, his cousin Daniel Richard and Houle carried it out.

Court heard Wednesday that Houle was not involved in plotting the murder and initially believed he was going to take part in a robbery.

Houle told police he beat Radocaj with a baseball bat, believing Sanford’s claim he had sexually assaulted her daughter. That claim was later discredited at trial.

Following his arrest, Houle wrote a note to Radocaj’s parents saying he was “ashamed and disgusted” by his actions.

“I did not know what Melody was trying to do to your son,” Houle wrote.

RELATED LINKS

  • Archive of Ivan (John) Radocaj stories
  • CANOE.CA SLAM!