Monday, July 09, 2007

What's her backstory?

by Pat Hart

Donna Moonda was convicted…

I followed this crime since the day it first appeared in the paper. A doctor was shot in the face at point blank range at an emergency pull-off on the Ohio turnpike. His wife and mother-in-law witnessed Dr. Moodna’s murder. They saw the gunman take the doctor’s wallet, shoot him and flee the scene.

How horrible. How random.

Until a woman scorned reported that the wife of Dr. Moonda was having an affair with a 23 year old black man (the scorned woman’s ex boyfriend). The doctor’s wife and the young man had met in drug rehab. Cell phone records revealed that the two had been in contact throughout the day of the murder, in fact within in 20 minutes of the murder the young man was known to be in the proximity murder scene and in contact with the widow.

It didn’t take long for the affair to be confirmed. Mrs. Moonda was paying the rent on the apartment in which the young man lived.

The young man confessed; it was murder for hire. The motive was Dr. Moonda’s money. The criminals were not clever, their crime was not uncommon, their method crude and their conspiracy clumsy. They were both drug addicts, which may explain their lack of cunning.

How did this happen to Donna Moonda? She was a nurse so she was more than peripherally aware of the dangers of taking painkillers. She started with a prescription for chronic pain and then became a drug addict. Exactly how does that happen? Where is your doctor? Shouldn’t they be carefully monitoring your every action from the moment they prescribe a narcotic? What do they do? Give you a script for oxycotin and a shiny tri-fold pamphlet about the dangers of taking a narcotic?

As writer I’m always curious about people’s backstory. What was Donna Moonda like as a young woman? I imagine she was a schemer and climber, marrying an older, wealthier man and then when the older man became an ‘old man’ she felt trapped. How long was this old coot going to live anyway?

And I wonder what she was like as first grader. She and I are about the same age. Was she one of those officious little girls that Sister put in charge when she had to run to the office? The little girl that would stand in front of the class, rolling piece of chalk between her fingers, ready to record any transgressions on the blackboard? Or maybe she was one of those girls that hung around the fringes of the clutch of bad boys in the back of the room. She’d wait for one of them to throw a paper wad or drop their books or make a loud rude noise so she could explode into giggles and blush and toss her hair around. Or was Donna Moonda a morose and kind of dirty girl whose family was odd and whose mother came to school in her housedress?

What do you think? What kind of child grows up to commit murder, not serial killer murder, but a selfish, personal murder of a ‘loved’ one?

18 comments:

Tory said...

Pat: interesting blog. Really gets you thinking!

In terms of the doctor, I'm afraid most don't do much monitoring of what they prescribe. They figure their job is to dispense the drugs, it's mental health's job to deal with the addictive consequences.

In terms of backstory, I do think addiction changes people. They become desperate for the next fix, aren't thinking straight, and say and do things they never would if drugs weren't involved.

brenda said...

I think she was the kind of girl who hoarded stickers without ever sticking them and who stole lip gloss out of your desk. Don't you think some nurses become nurses to husband-shop the doctors?

Nancy said...

My daughter's a nurse and tells me frequently how impossible it is for a nurse to get her hands on drugs for herself. I point out that it's not the nurses who follow the rules who get addicted to drugs intended for their patients. I suspect she stole more than lipgloss, Brenda.

I've been fascinated by this case, too, Pat. But it's the backstory we want now, not the details of the actual killing, right?

Lee Lofland said...

In my book I wrote an entire chapter about drugs. Inside the chapter, in addition to everything a writer should know about drugs, are a few glimpses into an addict's pitiful world. I think the title of that chapter sums up my feelings on the subject - backstory included.

The title is:
Drugs, Not Money Are The Root of All Evil

Joyce said...

Lee, don't you think most crimes are drug related in some way? I know that here most burglaries and virtually all retail thefts are committed to obtain money to buy drugs.

Lee Lofland said...

It's my belief that all crimes are caused by some sort of mental impairment and drugs certainly cause an impairment.

Gina said...

What kind of person would conspire to kill her own husband? I think all of us who have been married (or shared a home with relatives or friends) can answer that. The urge to slaughter comes from living in close proximity. [I say "slaughter" rather then "murder" because they do seem to deserve it.] Love can turn to hate even when no money is involved.

I'm speaking hypothetically, of course. Honest. My ex-husband is alive and we are still friends.

Lee Lofland said...

Sure, love can turn to hate, but what drives someone to kill? Is it the hatred or is it a mental problem that causes them to act on the hatred? A lot of people despise others, but they don't kill them.

What do you guys think is the deciding factor that causes someone to pull the trigger or doctor someone's food with tularemia?

Kristine said...

This is an interesting case to examine, Pat. I do agree that drugs can cause people to change and behave in ways that seem out of character. But you also have to wonder what was going on in her life and her mind that got her started with the drug abuse and affair in the first place.

Joyce said...

To answer Lee's question, I think there has to be some kind of mental problem to plan a murder and carry it out. Most people don't even make it to the planning stage (except for writers!). They might wonder "what if" but then come to their senses. In Moonda's case, she probably had mental issues long before she started taking drugs.

Kathy MH said...

I'm just blown away by all of these high profile cases involving spouses doing away with one another (and, in many awful instances, their children too). I just can't imagine the thought-process that leads someone to determine that murder is preferable to divorce. I know in the instance of Christopher Vaughn (the Illinois man accused of killing his wife and two children) and wrestler Chris Benoit, a lot of people are throwing around the diagnosis of "Narcisstic Personality Disorder." Is that a viable explanation for the unfathomable reasoning that leads someone to act like this? Or just one of many complex factors?

pat said...

I agree that addiction and murder are often preceeded by mental illness. I think it's a rare that a mentally healthy person becomes an addict or a killer.

So Tory is this a fair statement or is it too glib and sweeping?

thank you all for commenting...

Gina (one of the vegetarians) said...

Lee, don't ask me what the deciding factor is that leads people to kill. I can't even figure out why apparently sane people would murder a chicken (or cow or shrimp) just so they can eat its dead burnt body, sacrificing an entire life for a few moments of flavor. I guess it may be a way of saying, "My wants are more important than your life."

Lee Lofland said...

I never would have guessed that Gina is a vegetarian...

Kathy Reschini Sweeney said...

This story is so tragic in so many ways.

I just had my second root canal in three weeks (two teeth next to each other). The Root Canal is nothing compared to the pain before hand.

I can totally see how anyone could get addicted to anything they can get their hands on if they are dealing with chronic pain.

Still - murder - pre-meditated, cold blood? That's evil, plain and simple.

Joyce said...

Kathy Sweeney, welcome to the Stiffs! Just don't let Margie know--she might have a different idea of what kind of blog this is.

I've been fortunate to have never been in the kind of pain you describe, but I can see how someone's only concern would be to stop the pain, regardless of the circumstances.

And I truly believe that there are some people who are born evil.

Tory said...

Pat said, "I think it's rare a mentally healthy person becomes an addict or a killer."

Statistics I quoted in my Pennwriters' presentation bear out what Lee is saying: drugs cause or precipitate most violence. One study showed that 60% of those with self reports of violence had diagnoses of alcohol or substance abuse or dependence. That doesn't include people whose violence may have been precipitated by briefer uses of drugs or alcohol.

While I'm not able to quote figures on it, Pat, I do think saying, "It's rare a mentally healthy person becomes an addict," is a bit glib. Are there psychologicaly issues behind drug use? Of course. But drugs today are very potent, and only a few uses can lead to addiction. Experimentation with substances is pretty typical in adolescence. Also think of kids from backgrounds of poverty and neglect, with few ways out. It takes an extraordinary person to overcome that background. I bet many with relatively average mental health succumb to drugs as a way to numb their pain or feel powerful.

It's also important to remember that the number of substance abusers is larger than the number of criminals, so there are many law abiding substance abusers out there. (My next door neighbor is definitely a pleasant drunk.)

Lee Lofland said...

I don't know the stats, but I do know that I was a cop for many years and nearly everyone I arrested (and that's a long, long list) was involved in drug use/abuse in some form or another.

In fact, I've been trying to remember an offender who wasn't at some time involved in drug use and I can't come up with a single name or face. Sad isn't it.

Then again, my memory isn't as sharp as it used to be. Hey, what were we talking about anyway...