Ottawa Citizen

Friday 26 February 1999

Woman charged in plot to 'hit' family

Police say Sunday school teacher hired undercover officer to kill parents, brother

Gary Dimmock
The Ottawa Citizen

A 27-year-old Sunday school teacher who lives with her parents apparently felt so controlled by her family that she allegedly hired a hit man to kill them and her younger brother.

Ottawa-Carleton police say Teresa Bonacci, a part-time Carleton University student, began plotting the deaths of her middle-aged parents and 21-year-old brother two weeks ago.

After she inquired about hiring a contract killer, police learned of her alleged intentions. Days later, major-crime detectives launched a sting in which an undercover officer posed as a hit man for hire.

Ms. Bonacci, who has no criminal record, met the undercover agent on Wednesday to deliver an undisclosed amount of money as a "down payment" for the contract killings, police say.

Police arrested her hours later. She faces three charges of counselling to commit murder, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Luigi Bonacci had just picked up his sister from her part-time government job when police pulled them over.

Police arrested his sister at the side of the road as he looked on in disbelief.

"It's such a shock," said Mr. Bonacci.

News of her arrest has devastated the tight-knit, churchgoing family and shaken Ottawa's Italian community.

Friends and family say her parents, Frank and Maria Bonacci, want privacy. They are reeling from the news of their daughter's arrest, and the accusations against her.

"We don't have any idea or reason at all," her brother said.

Some family members say the police have made a mistake.

"It's completely unbelievable," said cousin Antonio Bonacci.

During a brief court appearance yesterday, Ms. Bonacci held her head in her hands as the charges were read. The distraught woman, who looks much younger than her age, wore a red, long-sleeved shirt and a navy-blue sports coat as she stood under police guard in the prisoner's box.

"She's led an unblemished life and is a very lovely, nice young lady," said defence lawyer Kathleen Gowanlock. "If the allegations are true it is inexplicable."

Ms. Banocci remains in custody and is scheduled to be examined by a court psychiatrist today.

"She is upset and confused. I think the full impact has hit home," the lawyer said.

Asked about her client's state of mind, the lawyer said: "The court record speaks for itself, and I think it's appropriate that she'll be seeing a psychiatrist."

The lawyer spoke with the woman's parents yesterday and said they are concerned about their daughter's state of mind. The parents are heartbroken, she said.

Ms. Banocci's brother said nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the days and hours leading to his sister's arrest. He said he was shocked when he learned his sister was charged with hiring a hit man to kill the entire family.

The accused's parents are a hard-working Italian couple who live in a modest, 1 1/2-storey brick house in Mooney's Bay. They are well-known in Ottawa's Italian community and attend mass regularly at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church on Walkley Road. The church is within walking distance of their family home on Otterson Drive, a quiet, dead-end street.

Their daughter teaches Sunday school at the church. She presides over a level-three class of seven children. The news of her arrest has shaken the parish.

"It's a very difficult situation. This is a young woman who finds herself in difficult circumstances," said Ms. Gowanlock.

"It is something that no one could have possibly foreseen," the lawyer said.

Ms. Banocci is to appear in court this morning.

Copyright 1999 Ottawa Citizen