Prosecutors said Monday that they would seek the death penalty against the physician father and an uncle of an 11-year-old Hacienda Heights boy whose dismembered body was found Nov. 17 in a trash can near an apartment allegedly rented to carry out the murder.
Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner personally came to the county courthouse in Pomona to announce that his office had filed first-degree murder complaints with special circumstance--allowing prosecutors to seek the death penalty if the pair is convicted--against Dr. Khalid Parwez, 38, the father of Raheel Parwez, and an uncle, Satter Ahmed, 27.
Parwez has been held without bail since his arrest last week but the uncle is still at large.
"If there ever was a case in which the death penalty is deserved, it's this case," Reiner said.
It is a matter of bitter contention between the prosecutor and a defense attorney whether the special circumstance of an "especially heinous, atrocious and cruel crime" can be sought in the case.
Reiner acknowledged that the state Supreme Court, under former Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, ruled in 1982 that the "especially heinous, atrocious and cruel" allegation was unconstitutionally vague. He decided to seek the special circumstance, however, since it is under review by the high court, now headed by Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas.
That brought a sharp rebuke from defense attorney Leslie H. Abramson, who was at the Pomona courthouse for Parwez's arraignment, which was continued to Friday morning.
"It's a bit grasping," she said. "You can't start applying it before it's law again. The child died of strangulation. What happens to bodies after they're dead is not heinous, atrocious and cruel."
Abramson said she would seek to strike the special circumstance at Friday's hearing.
Reiner fended off many of the reporters' questions about the evidence linking the men to the homicide or the motive for the crime. He said investigators were aware of the dispute between the murdered boy's parents over custody as a result of a divorce, but he declined to add anything further.
Reiner said the first-degree murder charge with special circumstance was sought because:
- The Hacienda Heights apartment, in the complex where the body was found, was allegedly rented for the "sole purpose" of dismembering the boy's corpse.
- Some of the implements apparently used in the murder, among them a hand saw and an ax, were reportedly purchased five days before the murder occurred.
- The Sheriff's Department's investigation showed that inside the apartment, "virtually all of the victim's flesh was carefully and precisely removed from his bones and dissected into more than 200 pieces."
Reiner asked for the public's help in locating two people who purchased hardware equipment at a Builders Emporium store in Hacienda Heights at 6:45 p.m. on Nov. 11. The two, he said, may have been in a position to notice something that may be of value to investigators.
When told of Reiner's comments, Abramson said her client was innocent, contending that he was at his office at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in West Los Angeles at the time the boy was apparently murdered.
Asked for comment on why Reiner personally came to Pomona, Abramson replied, "It just tells me that Ira Reiner is still Ira Reiner . . . which means that he loves publicity."