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O.C. man became obsessed killer after breakup, D.A. says

October 16, 2013|By Adolfo Flores
  • Karishma Dhanak and her father were killed.
Karishma Dhanak and her father were killed. (Irvine Police Department )

An Orange County man turned into an obsessed killer when his girlfriend told him her parents wanted them to break up because he was Muslim and they were Hindus, a prosecutor told jurors in a double-murder trial Wednesday.

“He wanted to possess this woman,” Howard Gundy, senior deputy district attorney, told jurors.

Iftekhar Murtaza is accused of killing his former girlfriend's father and sister, and burning their gasoline-doused bodies; stabbing and beating the mother so severely that she was left in a coma for weeks — and setting fire to the family's Anaheim Hills home.

“If you boil it down, what this case really comes down to is a case about obsession, manipulation and complete and utter disregard for human lives,” Gundy said in his opening statements.

Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty if Murtaza is convicted.

Gundy told jurors that after Shayona Dhanak broke up with Murtaza, he enlisted the help of friends to help kill Shayona’s family, believing that by eliminating them, she would see him as a “white knight” and reunite with him.

Murtaza is accused of plotting the slaying with two other men via instant messages, texts and face-to-face conversations. At one point, Gundy said, Murtaza attempted to hire Russian hit men.

The three men are accused of breaking into the family's Anaheim Hills home in May 2007 and beating and stabbing the father, Jaypraykash Dhanak, 56. When the sister, Karishma Dhanak, 20, got home, she was detained and the mother, Leela Dhanak, was also attacked, prosecutors said. The house was then set on fire.

Leela Dhanak was found unconscious, beaten and burned in a neighbor's yard. The burned bodies of the father and sister were found on a bike trail near UC Irvine.

Murtaza faces two felony counts of special circumstances murder, one felony count of attempted murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder. He faces sentencing enhancements for multiple murders, murder during the commission of kidnapping, murder for financial gain and murder during the commission of a burglary.

Murtaza's attorneys are set to give statements Wednesday afternoon.


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