Opening statements were made Wednesday at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana in the trial of a Hollywood man suspected of killing a UC Irvine student's father and sister and attempting to kill her mother as well.
Vitaliy Krasnoperov, 25, is accused of killing Jaypraykash and Karishma Dhanak in the Mason Regional Park in Irvine in 2007 and stabbing Leela Dhanak at the family's home in Anaheim Hills.
Krasnoperov is charged with two felony counts of special circumstances murder, one felony count of attempted murder, and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Two months before the murders, then 18-year-old Shayona Dhanak broke up with Iftekhar Murtaza, 26, of Van Nuys, according to a news release from the Orange County district attorney's office.
Prosecutors said that the parents, Jaypraykash and Leela Dhanak, disapproved of the relationship partly because they were practicing Hindus and Murtaza was a non-practicing Muslim. Murtaza blamed the parents for the breakup and recruited Krasnoperov and another man, Charles Anthony Murphy, Jr., 26, of Mission Hills, to help him retaliate, according to the release.
Murtaza, along with Krasnoperov and Murphy are accused of stabbing mother Leela and father Jaypraykash, then abducting the father along with sister Karishma from their home.
The D.A. alleges that the men burned the bodies of the father and daughter with gasoline. The mother was left dying at the house, but later recovered from her injuries.
Murphy and Murtaza begin their trials at later dates.
They both face additional sentencing enhancements for murder for financial gain. Murtaza is accused of offering Murphy $30,000 "for a job."
Conversations among the defendants were recorded on AOL Instant Messenger and on text messages, according to the release.
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas is seeking the death penalty against Murtaza.
If convicted, Krasnoperov and Murphy face a maximum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole.