Man who killed, burned ex-girlfriend's father, sister gets death

Death sentence for man who murdered ex-girlfriend's dad, sister in Irvine

A Van Nuys man was sentenced to death Tuesday for murdering the father and sister of his ex-girlfriend and leaving their charred bodies in an Irvine park, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.

Iftekhar Murtaza, 30, also left his ex-girlfriend's mother, Leela Dhanak, in a three-week coma after the 2007 crime in which the family's Anaheim Hills home was set on fire.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors read a statement from Dhanak saying she could not comprehend Murtaza's "depravity of spirit."

Before the murders, Murtaza had been dating Shayona Dhanak, a UC Irvine student, for two years.

When she broke up with him, Murtaza blamed her parents, who had disapproved of the relationship because the family members were devout Hindus and Murtaza was Muslim, according to prosecutors.

Murtaza went with two friends to the family's home, where Shayona Dhanak's father, Jayprakash, was stabbed and held in a bathroom while the trio waited for other family members to arrive, officials said.

Leela Dhanak and Shayona's sister, Karishma, arrived between 10 and 11 p.m. and also were attacked, according to the district attorney's office.

The assailants then doused the house with gasoline, set it on fire and took the family members to a waiting van. A neighbor noticed the flames and alerted a nearby police officer, prosecutors said.

Officials found Leela Dhanak unconscious on a neighbor's lawn, but the attackers took the two other family members with them.

Jayprakash and Karishma Dhanak were killed near a bike trail in Mason Regional Park in Irvine and their bodies were set on fire, according to prosecutors.

Murtaza was convicted in November 2013 of two felony counts of murder, one felony count of attempted murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder, plus sentencing enhancements for multiple murders and murder during the commission of kidnapping. A jury recommended the death penalty a month later.

Dobruck writes for Times Community News.

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