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This article was published 26/9/2011 (3076 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg jury has started hearing evidence of an alleged murder-for-hire plot that resulted in the death of a former pro wrestler known as the "Croatian Giant."
Ivan Radocaj, 43, was beaten to death inside his Interlake home in September 2007.
Charged with conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder are Radocaj's widow, Melody Sanford; her friend, Rita Cushnie; Cushnie's son, Donald Richard; family member Daniel Richard; and another man, Christopher Houle.
Sanford, Cushnie and Donald Richard began their Queen’s Bench trial Monday morning by pleading not guilty. Jurors were told that Houle and Daniel Richard "are dealing with their matters in a separate proceeding" but given no further details.
Crown attorney Mark Kantor gave jurors a brief synopsis of the case in his opening statement. He said Sanford married Radocaj in June 2007, despite telling friends she didn’t want to proceed with the union.
He said one of Sanford’s friends is expected to testify how she began claiming that Radocaj was "mistreating" her shortly after the ceremony and openly discussed her desire to "hire a hit man."
Kantor said a plan was eventually formed to kill Radocaj. Sanford agreed to take him out for dinner to a Teulon-area restaurant on the night of Sept. 12, 2007 while Houle, Donald Richard and Daniel Richard broke into his residence and waited for him to return home.
Radocaj was then allegedly attacked by the trio, who were armed with crowbars and metal pipes.
One of the key Crown witnesses is expected to be Timothy Richard, a cousin of the two Richards who was present during some of the discussions to kill Radocaj, jurors were told.
Jurors will also be shown videotaped police interviews with Sanford and Donald Richard, plus view evidence seized from Sanford’s home which included a notebook containing a diagram of Radocaj’s home. There will also be forensic evidence and detailed phone records between the accused, said Kantor.
Radocaj enjoyed a brief stint as a pro wrestler back in the early 1980s, under various ring names including the Croatian Giant, Ivan the Giant and Big John Radocaj.
The trial is scheduled to last three weeks.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.