Trial will continue Tuesday for one of three men accused of killing two members of an Anaheim Hills family and attempting to kill a third in a calculated attack stemming from a break-up between one of the defendants and his girlfriend.
Charles Anthony Murphy Jr., 27, of Mission Hills, is charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder, as well as the sentence-enhancing allegations of multiple murders, murdering during the commission of a burglary, murder during the commission of a kidnapping and murder for financial gain in connection with the May 21, 2007 killings and attack, according to Orange County District Attorney officials.
His trial began Nov. 7 in Santa Ana Superior Court, Orange County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Farrah Emami said.
Murphy allegedly took part in the crimes after being hired by the alleged vengeful boyfriend, Iftekhar Murtaza, 28, of Van Nuys.
Murphy faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged, officials said. The ongoing trial is his third, as his first trial ended with a hung jury and his second trial was declared a mistrial.
Murtaza is scheduled for trial Jan. 14 in Santa Ana Superior Court, Emami said. He’s accused of the same charges as Murphy, with the exception of the special allegation of murder for financial gain.
In his case, authorities are seeking the death penalty.
On Nov. 9 in the Santa Ana Superior Court district, Vitaliy Krasnoperov, a 26-year-old friend of Murtaza from Hollywood, was sentenced to life in prison for the same charges Murtaza now faces, attorney officials said. He was convicted by a jury late last year in his second trial, after a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the first.
The three men conspired to target the family of Murtaza’s ex-girlfriend, believing they were responsible when his 18-year-old girlfriend ended a two-year relationship, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Killed were the ex-girlfriend’s father, Jaypraykash Dhanak, 56, and sister, Karishma Dhanak, 20, officials said. The ex-girlfriend’s mother, Leela Dhanak, 54, suffered major injuries in the incident and was left in a coma.
“The Dhanaks disapproved of the relationship partly because they were practicing Hindus and Murtaza was a non-practicing Muslim,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
“Murtaza is accused of becoming angry about the break-up, believing that Shayona Dhanak’s parents were responsible because they did not approve of the relationship and had pressured her to end the relationship.”
Murtaza and Krasnoperov allegedly enlisted the help of Murphy by offering him $30,000. The men ambushed, beat and stabbed the parents at their home in the 6000 block of E. Camino Correr, officials said. Leela Dhanak was left outside the home, which was set on fire and largely destroyed, while Jaypraykash and Karishma Danek were placed into a van and kidnapped.
“Five hours after fleeing the Dhanaks’ Anaheim Hills home, the defendants are accused of taking Jaypraykash and Karishma Dhanak to a bike trail at Mason Regional Park in Irvine,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “They are accused of murdering the victims and setting their bodies on fire with gasoline. The defendants are accused of then fleeing the scene. Officers responding to calls reporting the early-morning fires discovered the bodies.”
Anaheim police arrested Murtaza May 25, 2007 in Arizona while he tried to board a one-way flight to India, district attorney officials said. The subsequent investigation led to the arrests of Krasnoperov in June 2007 and Murphy in August 2007.
At Krasnoperov’s sentencing earlier this month, Murtaza’s former girlfriend, Shayona Dhanak, reportedly addressed the court with a victim impact statement.
“What baffles me is that he had the power to do the right thing and instead of destroying lives he could have saved lives,” she said, according to the Orange County Register. “He did not show my dad and my sister mercy when he allowed them to be beaten, stabbed and burned. I only ask my family gets the justice they deserve.”
According to county booking records, Murphy and Murtaza were being held without bail as the proceedings moved forward. Records described Murphy’s profession as a salesman. Murtaza was listed as a loan agent, while
Krasnoperov was listed as a loan officer.
The case was investigated by the Anaheim Police Department and is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy of the OCDA’s Homicide Unit.