Globe and Mail

Detective posing as hit man foiled plan to murder family

He tells court that daughter was willing to pay $300,000 to have father, mother, brother killed, ERIN ANDERSSEN writes

ERIN ANDERSSEN
The Globe and Mail
Saturday, November 25, 2000

OTTAWA -- In less than 30 minutes, sitting in a truck outside a crowded Harvey's restaurant with a stranger she believed to be a hit man, Teresa Bonacci closed the deal that would have seen her entire family brutally murdered.

She wanted her father, mother and brother beaten to death -- and painfully, she stressed -- but because she also wanted a guarantee there'd be no survivors, the hit man recommended he would use a gun instead. He even showed it to her, to prove he had the "goods" to do the job, and she cracked a joke about being "a good shot."

She gave him a floor plan of her family's home, mapping out the bedrooms. Rough me up, too, she told him, so it will look like a burglary. When he asked for it, she printed an IOU: "From Teresa, To Mack. $300,000 by April 30, 1999." They'd agreed on $100,000 a head. She would pay it in a month, she promised, with the money she'd inherit. But she wanted the job done that very night.

It might have worked, but for one major glitch: "Mack" was not a hit man at all, but Detective Gordon MacPherson, a 26-year veteran of the Ottawa-Carleton police force, who talks like a cowboy and sports a horseshoe moustache and long hair, and would have no trouble fooling anyone -- especially a 27-year-old Sunday school teacher -- into thinking he was the kind of man who could be hired to kill.

"She seemed to be quite happy," he said on the stand yesterday. "Glad she was meeting me."

He'd been sure, he said, to bring protection. "Meeting someone who wanted to do in their mom and dad and brother, I was going to be armed."

The police arrested Teresa Bonacci a few hours after the meeting in the Harvey's parking lot on Feb. 24, 1999. After almost two years of adjournments and three separate lawyers, she pleaded guilty last September to one count of counselling to commit murder.

At her sentencing hearing yesterday, the prosecution began calling evidence to show that Ms. Bonacci began laying plans for her parents long before she finally met with her "hit man" -- that this was no rash, lightning-bolt decision but a carefully plotted arrangement. She went to a great deal of trouble to collect the first $20,000 for a down payment.

"I'm very serious here," she allegedly told her first contact. And in the truck on the final day, Det. MacPherson asked her repeatedly if she was certain she wanted her family dead. She told him she was. Do it tonight, she insisted.

Her parents were sitting in court yesterday -- as they have been from the beginning -- directly behind their daughter in the prisoner's box. Ms. Bonacci waved at them when she was brought in, her feet in shackles, and her tearful mother, Maria, tried to speak to her during a break but was stopped by the bailiff.

The Bonaccis have told the police that they can produce no "rational reason" for their daughter's actions -- there is no life insurance, they say, and only a modest inheritance that might not have even covered the amount she'd agreed to pay for their deaths.

But Ms. Bonacci, who lived at home and worked at Revenue Canada, was apparently chafing under her family's strict rule. She complained to the first man she approached about the contract killings -- an old family acquaintance named Joe Ieradi -- that her parents treated her "like a very young girl" and still spanked her when she didn't obey them.

"I want to teach someone a lesson," Mr. Ieradi testified that she told him. You know people, she said, find someone who'll do it for me.

Mr. Ieradi, a greasy-looking 47-year-old, said he's known Ms. Bonacci for 20 years -- they'd met through her family, and for a while, after getting re-acquainted at a Phil Collins concert, had been "casual" sexual partners. Given that, one would think he try to talk her out of it. Instead, he set the amount at $300,000, and told her to get the down payment -- practically "leading [Ms. Bonacci] down the garden path" and perhaps hoping to pocket the money himself, her lawyer Bob Carew suggested yesterday.

Mr. Ieradi was also facing several drug and weapons charges at the time. Maybe he thought, as his police statement suggests, he'd get a deal if he turned her in.

He denied both allegations. "She said she'd find someone else if I didn't help her," he said. "It was the only way I could stop her."

Mr. Ieradi's motivation aside, Ms. Bonacci appeared determined. When she had trouble raising the down payment, she embezzled $10,000 from her dad's account. When the Money Mart refused her personal cheque, she had one certified at a bank and with Mr. Ieradi posing as her father, Frank, returned the next day.

Three hours later, she was given 38 Western Union money orders and she handed them to Mr. Ieradi. He tried unsuccessfully to cash some of it, and then went to the police with his story. But the authorities, he claimed to the court, "would have been called no matter what."

The court is still waiting to hear the taped conversation between Ms. Bonacci and Det. MacPherson, as well as from the psychiatrist who assessed her following the arrest. She will be back in court on Dec. 7, the same day she turns 29.

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