The trial of a South African former theology student accused of murdering four people in Ohio and New Mexico has been postponed till October.
A South African man accused of four murders in the United States will stand trial for two of them in October after the case was postponed by the court in New Mexico.
Muziwokuthula â€œMuzi” Madondo is being held in a Texas jail after he was arrested in Houston on 28 March 2011 for four murders committed between February and March 2011. He also faces a charge of tampering with evidence.
Jacquelyn Hider, a 60-year-old bank executive from Akron, Ohio, was the first of Madondo’s alleged victims. She was killed by two bullets, one in her abdomen and one in the chest, and robbed in her home.
Two days later, about 300km away, Madondo allegedly murdered 25-year-old Maritzburg College old boy Zenzele Mdadane, whose bullet-riddled body was later found by hunters in the woods in Butler Township, Ohio. He reportedly met Mdadane at a theme park, although police are not sure how they came to be in Butler Township.
On 24 March, in Tucumcari, New Mexico, 2,000km from the last murder scene, Madondo allegedly shot dead Bobby Gonzales, 57, and his stepson Gabriel Baca, 37, in a motel, where police found pools of blood and drag marks.
The alleged murderer originally comes from Richmond, near Pietermaritzburg. He migrated to the US in 2008 to study theology. Before that he studied engineering at the University of Durban Westville (UDW), where he led the Student Christian Fellowship and was Student Representative Council president until 2003, when he was sacked after being charged with corruption, mismanagement of university funds, fraud, and of coercing the institution to enter into contracts that cost it millions of rand. He was also accused of mobilising students to interfere with the smooth running of the academic calendar. His conduct, a statement said at the time, was detrimental to the university’s maintenance of order and discipline.
His former peers from UDW described him as â€œan ordinary, down-to-earth guy.”
Faizal Khan, a former student who knew Madondo, described him as “a controversial leader. In our days we were very political. But this has come as a shock. It’s criminal, murder… it’s very shocking.
â€œHe was a good leader. He had a large following both in the SRC and the Student Christian Fellowship. He would pray for students who were possessed by demons. He was charismatic. You could see God had chosen him. He used to change lives,” said Khan.
In the USA, Madondo had worked for a satellite TV business and then turned to robbery, according to police. Police found Madondo by contacting the satellite TV company he worked for and enlisted the help of his former supervisor, who sent him text messages offering him employment in the Houston area. By this time Madondo had realised he was a wanted man and tried to obtain fake identification. He sent the supervisor a message saying, â€œthose amigoz thought they were smart, I wil tel you more in person bos”. When police arrested him, he allegedly told police he wanted to make a success of his life to help his elderly parents.
Madondo has pleaded not guilty to the murders committed in Tucumcari, but allegedly confessed to the first two killings in Ohio. If he is convicted he may face the death penalty as it is legal in the state of Ohio. Lieutenant David Whiddon of the Akron Police Department, told the press that Madondo would be brought back to Ohio to face charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. However, prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
Madondo’s lawyer Roger Bargas, who represents him only in connection with the Gonzales and Baca murders, applied for suppression of evidence last year. In September Bargas said that a jury should not hear the statements Madondo made to the police immediately after his arrest as the police illegally took statements from the accused, despite his request for a lawyer. Bargas added the police failed to immediately contact South African consular officials, who would have advised Madondo about his rights.
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