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Life in prison for murder-for-hire of former pro wrestler
By DEAN PRITCHARD - Winnipeg Sun


Ivan Radocaj(right), a former professional wrestler, was found dead in his home near Inwood, Manitoba on Sept. 14, 2007.

WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg man has been sentenced to life in prison for his part in the murder-for-hire of former pro wrestler Ivan Radocaj.

Daniel Richard, 27, previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, admitting he helped beat Radocaj to death at his Interlake area home on Sept. 14, 2007.

Richard is the fifth and final accused to be convicted in the killing. Last year a jury convicted Radocaj's ex-wife, Melody Sanford, 48, Donald Richard, 35, and Donald's mother, Rita Cushnie, 57, of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. All three are appealing their convictions.

Christopher Houle pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Jurors heard evidence Sanford commissioned Radocaj's killing while Donald Richard, his cousin Daniel Richard and Houle carried it out.

Sanford claimed Radocaj was physically abusive and had sexually assaulted her adult daughter. Sanford's daughter discredited her mother's claims on the witness stand.

Tim Richard, Donald's cousin, was also arrested in the killing but was granted immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony against the five co-accused.

Tim Richard said he drove with Donald, Daniel and Houle to Radocaj's house the night he was killed, but remained in the van. He said the three co-accused went into the house armed with crowbars and a metal pipe and waited for Radocaj to return home.

Daniel Richard was originally charged with first-degree murder but negotiated a deal to plead guilty to the reduced charge. As part of the plea bargain, prosecutors agreed to recommend that Richard be allowed to apply for parole after serving a minimum 10 years in prison.

Crown attorney Mark Kantor said there was a strong chance Richard could have been acquitted had he stood trial on the original charge. Kantor said Timothy Richard provided conflicting testimony about whether there was a plot to kill Radocaj. Kantor said Donald Richard was the only witness who could testify as to Daniel Richard's knowledge of the murder plot and it was uncertain whether he would be co-operative.

"The Crown views this as an appropriate resolution," Kantor said.

Radocaj's parents were clearly unhappy with the plea bargain.

"There is no justice, no justice at all," his mother, Darlene Radocaj, said as she left court, wiping away tears.

RELATED LINKS

  • Archive of Ivan (John) Radocaj stories