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Boyfriend sought in O.C. slayings is extradited

Authorities have two days to charge the 22-year-old in the attack on an Anaheim Hills family last month -- or let him go.

June 12, 2007|Jennifer Delson | Times Staff Writer

A 22-year-old man held in connection with the slayings of an Anaheim Hills father and daughter and the near-fatal beating of the mother was extradited Monday from Arizona to Orange County.

Authorities have two days to charge or release Iftekhar Murtaza, a Van Nuys man who has been held as a "person of interest" in the crime since he was picked up at the Phoenix airport.

At the time, authorities said they believed Murtaza was trying to flee the country. But Murtaza's attorney said his client was bound for Bangladesh to visit his ailing grandmother.

The defense attorney said Murtaza had been inaccurately portrayed as a spurned and obsessed boyfriend who may have been bent on revenge against the family. He said Murtaza was innocent of any crime.

Murtaza is the boyfriend of a surviving daughter of the attacked family. Shayona Dhanak was at UC Irvine when her parents and older sister were attacked, authorities said.

Murtaza agreed to be extradited to California for further questioning and arrived late Monday at Ontario International Airport, where he was met by police who took him to the Anaheim Detention Facility.

Under state law, authorities can hold him for "two working days," without charging him with a crime, said Susan Kang Schroeder, Orange County district attorney public affairs counsel.

Schroeder expects her office to announce Wednesday morning what charges, if any, will be filed against Murtaza.

Anaheim Police Sgt. Rick Martinez said others could also be charged. "We do believe this was the work of more than one person," Martinez said.

Friends say the Dhanak family was displeased with Shayona Dhanak's relationship with Murtaza, possibly because he was Muslim and possibly because he was not enrolled in college.

On May 21, authorities arriving at a late-night fire at the Dhanaks' home found Shayona Dhanak's mother, Leela, 53, bludgeoned and unconscious on a neighbor's lawn.

Several hours later, authorities discovered the badly burned bodies of her father, Jayprakash "Jay" Dhanak, 56, and her 20-year-old sister, Karishma, at a park near Concordia University in Irvine.

Court records indicated that "a victim" alerted officers to Murtaza's possible involvement and that his cellphone was used near one of the crime scenes an hour or so before the slayings.

Murtaza had told authorities he wasn't in Anaheim, the location of one crime scene, the day of the house fire, according to court records.

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