Accused Wife Killer to Claim Mental Abuse

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An Iranian immigrant plans to defend himself against charges of murdering his wife by claiming that she nagged, browbeat and psychologically abused him for a quarter of a century.

Moosa Hanoukai exploded in the early-morning hours of March 20--the Iranian New Year's Eve, traditionally a day of celebration and renewal--after years of being forced to run errands for his dominating and penny-pinching wife at the couple's apparel-manufacturing business in Highland Park, according to defense attorney James E. Blatt.

The strategy is "a cultural defense argument and a battered-husband type of argument," Blatt told a judge Thursday.

"I believe this is a crime of passion, that it was spontaneous," Blatt said outside court. "It was not premeditated."

Hanoukai, 54, is accused of bludgeoning his wife in the couple's Woodland Hills home. The fully clothed body of Manijeh Hanoukai, 45, was found stuffed into a trash bag in the garage of their residence on Margarita Drive.

Manijeh Hanoukai died from blunt-force trauma to the head, but no murder weapon has been found, raising suspicion that her husband killed her with his bare hands, authorities said.

During a preliminary hearing Thursday, a Los Angeles Police Department detective testified that Manijeh Hanoukai forced her husband to sleep on the floor of a second bedroom and that she maintained strict control of every dollar generated by the company.

She had complete control over several bank accounts with deposits totaling more than $200,000, according to Detective Phil Quartararo. Her husband was not named as a beneficiary either on the bank deposits or her life insurance policy, he said.

"If my father wanted a cigarette, he had to ask my mother for the money," the Hanoukais' 24-year-old daughter told authorities, Quartararo said.

Blatt and a Hanoukai family member said after the hearing that Moosa Hanoukai was trapped in his 24-year marriage. He was isolated because he does not speak English, and divorce was not an option because it would have cast aspersions on his unmarried daughter, Blatt said.

"This type of situation is ripe for an explosion," he said.

In addition to being emotionally battered, Hanoukai was ridiculed by business associates because his situation violated the traditional Iranian family mores, in which the woman is subservient, Blatt said.

Hanoukai was "totally dependent on her and equally frustrated," he said.

Municipal Judge Jessica Perrin Silver also heard testimony from Massood Eghbali, a friend of Hanoukai's who works at a neighboring business. He said Hanoukai called him March 20, saying he had killed his wife only hours before.

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