(Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)
A 29-year-old Van Nuys man was convicted Friday of killing his ex-girlfriend's father and sister and setting fire to their Anaheim Hills mansion in a night of violence that authorities said was driven by revenge.
Iftekhar Murtaza lowered his head several times as the verdicts were read and appeared to cry. Jurors will now decide whether he should be sentenced to death.
Murtaza was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend's father, Jayprakash Dhanak, 56, and sister, Karishma Dhanak, 20, in May 2007. Their burned bodies were found in a secluded area near UC Irvine.
The ex-girlfriend's mother was found critically wounded on a neighbor's lawn. She was in a coma for weeks, but has survived.
"We're very pleased with the verdicts," Deputy Dist. Atty. Howard Gundy said after the hearing.
Murtaza's attorney declined to comment as he walked his client's parents from the courthouse.
On the witness stand, the former girlfriend's mother, Leela Dhanak, identified Murtaza as the man who slashed her throat and stomach with a knife.
Shayona Dhanak, the ex-girlfriend and only family member not at home during the attack, testified that her parents didn't approve of her then-boyfriend. She said she decided to break up with him because he was overly possessive, but told him it was because her parents were devout Hindus and he was Muslim — an excuse she said she hoped would make the breakup easier.
Murtaza instead concocted a plan to kill the family, even trying to hire Russian hit men to pull off the job, hoping that in the tragedy his former girlfriend would turn to him for comfort. He ended up carrying out the murders with a friend, who was convicted in an earlier trial.
The autopsy showed that Jayprakash Dhanak had been stabbed 29 times but died as a result of a crushing injury to the back of his skull. Karishma Dhanak had a large gash on her throat and bled to death, evidence showed
On the witness stand, Murtaza tried to pin the slayings on the work of others, including the son of singer Bobby Brown, whose name had never previously been mentioned in the case.
Jurors are expected to return Dec. 2 for opening statements in the penalty phase.