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Men held in jail were friends, colleagues

The friend of a man charged in the slaying of two Anaheim Hills residents awaits extradition in Phoenix.

June 21, 2007|Ashley Powers and Yvonne Villarreal | Times Staff Writers

The young men were an affable, tightknit pair, partying side by side in Hollywood and working together in Van Nuys.

Iftekhar Murtaza now sits in Orange County Jail, charged with the murders of two members of his former girlfriend's family and the severe beating of a third. Vitaliy Krasnoperov, awaiting extradition in Phoenix, is considered a person of interest in the crimes.

Their arrests have stunned neighbors and friends. Maria Tourtchaninova, an Arizona State University student Krasnoperov had visited before he was taken into custody last week, told The Times in an e-mail that "there is no way he is capable, not mentaly or physically," of being involved in the murders.

"Im sure this arrest is a mistake that will be corrected soon," she wrote.

Citing an ongoing investigation, authorities have released little information to explain the link between the young men and the May 21 slayings of Jayprakash and Karishma Dhanak, the father and older sister of Shayona Dhanak, an 18-year-old UC Irvine student who was not at the family home during the attack. Her mother, Leela, was badly bludgeoned and remains hospitalized.

The victims were strangled, beaten, burned and stabbed, according to court records. The family's Anaheim Hills home was set ablaze.

This spring, Shayona Dhanak had ended her three-year relationship with Murtaza, 22, of Van Nuys, because, according to friends and court records, her Hindu family frowned on her dating a Muslim. The young man had told friends he wanted to marry her.

Murtaza, whose cellphone was used near the crime scene within an hour or so of the house fire, according to court records, was arrested late last month at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport carrying a ticket to Bangladesh. Last week, he was charged with two counts of murder, one of attempted murder and special-circumstances allegations of murder during a kidnapping and multiple murders.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

On June 14, Krasnoperov, 21, of West Hollywood, was arrested, also in Arizona, where he was visiting friends, authorities said. He has signed an extradition waiver and is expected to be returned to Orange County by week's end.

Krasnoperov lived in a ground-level apartment on San Vicente Boulevard with his mother, Tatyana, who works at a Beverly Hills spa and at one point ran a limousine company. A man who answered the phone at the residence and identified himself as a friend of the family declined to comment Wednesday.

A neighbor in the small red-stucco complex said Krasnoperov was "a good kid, a nice kid" and that she baked him cookies.

"We are so shocked by this. He was sociable. He helped with my computer. He was a computer whiz," she said. The woman declined to give her name, saying that after the murders in Orange County, she feared "I'll be next."

Krasnoperov had worked at a loan company Murtaza had opened in Van Nuys, Pacific Wholesale Lending Inc., according to a source close to the investigation. Murtaza told friends the company was doing so well that he had moved to a larger office.

Murtaza's friends said the two partied together in Los Angeles. Like his friend, Krasnoperov's only known brushes with legal trouble were speeding tickets.

Krasnoperov, Tourtchaninova wrote online, "needs to control his jokes" because he made her laugh so much.

Investigators contacted Krasnoperov after the slayings, said Anaheim Police Sgt. Rick Martinez, and on June 14 arrested him at a Mesa residence where records show Tourtchaninova's family lives.

Arizona court records said Krasnoperov may have "fled California to avoid prosecution."

But Tourtchaninova said Krasnoperov had told police he was going to Arizona for a week of vacation. "They had no problem with him going there and to just come in for questioning when he got back to LA," she wrote.

"He has a good heart," said Tourtchaninova, who is studying creative writing and communication and works as a go-go dancer, according to her online profile.

During the time the Orange County murders occurred, she wrote, Krasnoperov "was at home with a broken arm in 3 places!"

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ashley.powers@latimes.com

yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com

Times staff writers Christian Berthelsen, Tiffany Hsu and David Reyes and researcher John Jackson contributed to this report.

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