Death penalty looms for SA man over US killing spree

File: Muziwokuthula “Muzi” Madondo faces a death sentence after pleading guilty to two US murders in the state of Ohio, US. This comes after he was sentenced to 30 years for other murders in New Mexico. Photo: AFP

TUCUMCARI, New Mexico – Accused of killing four people in the US in 2011, South African Muziwokuthula “Muzi” Madondo was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment on Monday for two of his crimes.

Madondo, who had pleaded guilty last month to gunning down of father and son Bobby Gonzales, 57, and Gabriel Baca, 37, will have to serve at least 24 years before being eligible for parole.

However, it is debatable whether Madondo will ever be allowed out on parole.

Hours before his sentencing for two counts of second-degree murder, two detectives from the Akron, Ohio police department arrived in Tucumcari with main purpose of retrieving evidence from their New Mexico counterparts that they hope will lead to Madondo’s conviction for the murder of First Merit Bank executive Jacquelyn Hilder in Ohio.

Hilder was killed in her home on the night of February 17, 2011, while two days later the bullet-riddled body of a Maritzburg College Old Boy was found in a forest some 300km away in Butler township near the city of Dayton in Ohio.

Unlike New Mexico, Ohio has the death penalty.

Quay county district attorney Tim Rose said he was happy with the sentence “given what it is in New Mexico. In other states the sentence for second-degree murder is 30 or 45 years”.

In New Mexico, the maximum sentence for a conviction of second-degree murder is 15 years. Madondo’s two sentences for each of the murders will run consecutively.

During his arrest and initial detention by Texas Rangers in the Texas town of Conroe in March 2011, Madondo confessed not only to the murders of Gonzales and Baca, but also apparently to those of Hilder and Zenzele Mdadane.

Madondo succeeded earlier this year in getting the Supreme Court of New Mexico to rule that his rights were violated when the confession was taken. The court ruled that a jury should not hear the confession but then less than two months before he was due to stand trial Madondo pleaded guilty to the Tucumcari killings.

Speaking shortly before Madondo’s sentencing, Rose told ANA that the former University of Westville Durban student had admitted to killing Hilder with the sole purpose of “getting money”.

“He travelled from Akron, Ohio for the sole purpose of committing the murder of Mdadane. He said it was cold-blooded and premeditated. He wanted some retribution for some acts that the other gentleman (Mdadane) had done to him in the past.”

Madondo, who hails from Richmond near Pietermaritzburg, admitted in his videotaped confession to stripping Mdadane of his clothing so that he would not be identified.

Madondo used Mdadane’s identification to open a bank account and lease an apartment.

“It ended up within two weeks of being here he committed two other murders that we believe was motivated by money. We believe he was motivated by money. All four of the murders were committed with the same weapon.”

Rose said that Madondo would be incarcerated in the state prison in the city of Los Lunas but that he expected Madondo to be extradited to Ohio by January or February next year.

In Ohio, Lieutenant David Whiddon said: “We sent two detectives to hear the sentencing. They arrived there (in Tucumcari) for the sentencing. They will also take possession of the evidence from the New Mexico police.”

Whiddon said that until Madondo had made his confession 2011, the Akron detectives had not linked him to Hilder’s murder and he did not believe that link would have been made.

He said that since the confession though, forensic evidence had tied Madondo to the crime scene, although he declined to say what that evidence was.

Detective Kevin Sink, from Butler township police department, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rose said that should Madondo receive jail terms for the Ohio murders, he would first have to serve out his New Mexico sentence.

However, in the event that Madondo is handed the death penalty in Ohio, then that would in all probability be the first sentence to be carried out following an exhaustive process of appeals.

In Ohio Madondo faces a charge of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary for the killing of Hilder.

Aggravated murder carries the death penalty in Ohio and according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction the last execution was carried out in January last year.

There are currently 139 men and one woman in the Ohio on death row with the next execution scheduled for January 2017.

African News Agency

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