Man Guilty of Murder in Burned-Bodies Case

Charles Anthony Murphy Jr. was convicted in a 2007 case

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Pool Photo/Orange County Register
    His defense team, Michael Molfetta, background, and Paul Wasserman, foreground, react as guilty verdicts are announced in the retrial of Charles Anthony Murphy Jr.

    A Santa Ana jury on Wednesday convicted a 28-year-old Mission Hills man of kidnapping and killing a man and his daughter for financial gain.

    Charles Anthony Murphy Jr. was convicted of two counts of murder, one count each of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and special-circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during a kidnapping and murder for financial gain.

    Jurors, who deliberated about two days before announcing Tuesday they had reached verdicts on the murder the charges, deadlocked on a special circumstance allegation of murder during a burglary.

    He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 4.

    Murphy, who lived in Mission Hills, was convicted in the May 21, 2007, deaths of Jayprakash Dhanak and his 20-year-old daughter, Karishma Dhanak, and the attempted murder of Leela Dhanak, Jayprakash's wife.

    Co-defendant Vitaliy Krasnoperov, 27, was sentenced last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Another co-defendant, Iftekhar Murtaza, 28, is due in court Dec. 20 and faces the death penalty.

    The murder plot was hatched after Murtaza's girlfriend of two years, Shayona Dhanak, broke up with him, according to Orange County Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy.

    Shayona Dhanak sought to end the relationship with Murtaza -- who had accused her of cheating on him -- but she didn't know how to do it, he said.

    Her mother suggested she blame the split on religious differences, Gundy said. The Dhanaks were devout Hindus, and Murtaza at the time was a non-practicing Muslim.

    Gundy argued in earlier trials that Murtaza planned to comfort his ex-girlfriend after the killings to win back her love.

    Krasnoperov broke his wrist in a motorcycle accident before the slayings and did not join the attackers who fatally stabbed the victims and set fire to their home, the prosecutor said.

    He was convicted under the legal theory of aiding and abetting the killers. Krasnoperov and Murtaza had extensive online conversations about hiring a hit man to kill the ex-girlfriend's family, Gundy said.

    The two had trouble finding a professional killer, and when Krasnoperov dropped out of the picture, he allegedly turned to Murphy, Gundy said. Murtaza allegedly promised to pay Murphy $30,000, Gundy said.
    The prosecutor argued that cellphone records put Murphy near the scene of the crime, but defense attorney Michael Molfetta presented expert testimony casting doubt on where Murphy was when he made phone calls that day.

    Murtaza and Murphy were accused of breaking into the Dhanak home, tying up Jayprakash Dhanak and beating him and stabbing him repeatedly, Gundy said. About 10:30 that night, Karishma Dhanak's friend dropped her off at the home and Murtaza and Murphy restrained her as well, Gundy said.

    When Leela Dhanak arrived home from work about 10:45 p.m., she was stabbed in the gut and her throat was slashed, but she survived, Gundy said. The killers set the house on fire, leaving Leela Dhanak behind unconscious on a neighbor's lawn, Gundy said.

    Firefighters found the bodies of Jayprakash and Karishma Dhanak about 4:15 a.m. May 22, 2007, near a bike trail at Mason Regional Park in Irvine, Gundy said. Karishma Dhanak appeared to have been burned alive and her throat was slashed, according to Gundy. Murphy was enrolled at Concordia University in Irvine at the time, close to where the bodies were dumped. Murtaza was arrested May 25, 2007, in the Phoenix airport while trying to get a flight to Bangladesh, Gundy said.
     

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