A Mission Hills man accused of killing two relatives of a UC Irvine student and attempting to kill a third will face jurors a second time, authorities said Tuesday.
Opening statements begin Wednesday in the trial against Charles Anthony Murphy Jr. The 27-year-old stands accused of two felony counts of special-circumstances murder, one felony count of attempted murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.
In 2007, the D.A.'s office contends, Murphy helped his childhood friend, Van Nuys resident Iftekhar Murtaza, kill Murtaza's ex-girlfriend's father and sister, and stab her mother.
Prosecutors allege that Murtaza, after his girlfriend of two years broke up with him, contacted Murphy and promised him $30,000 "for a job." At the time, Murtaza was a nonpracticing Muslim. The parents of Murtaza's ex-girlfriend, Shayona Dhanak, were Hindu and disapproved of their daughter's relationship with him, the D.A. said.
Murtaza allegedly blamed Dhanak's family for the breakup. In a plot described by prosecutors as a "revenge murder," Murtaza also used the help of Vitaliy Krasnoperov, 26, of Hollywood.
The three men allegedly attacked Dhanak's father, Jaypraykash Dhanak, by repeatedly stabbing and punching him. Prosecutors contend that the men also detained Dhanak's sister, Karishma Dhanak, when she came home and stabbed Dhanak's mother, Leela Dhanak, in the stomach when she came home.
Later, they allegedly set fire to the Dhanaks' Anaheim Hills house and attempted to take their victims to another location, but left Leela Dhanak behind.She was found unconscious on a neighbor's lawn and taken to a hospital with severe, life-threatening injuries.
Leela Dhanak was in a coma for three weeks and hospitalized for more than a month, prosecutors said.
Murphy, Murtaza and Krasnoperov allegedly took Jaypraykash and Karishma Dhanak to a bike trail in Irvine, where they set their bodies on fire with gasoline, according to the D.A.
Krasnoperov was convicted Dec. 15 of two felony counts of special-circumstances murder, one felony count of attempted murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder. He is scheduled for sentencing May 25. Prosecutors expect he will receive life in state prison.
In Murphy's case, the first jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict Dec. 15. He faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Murtaza's next court date is June 22. The D.A. is seeking the death penalty in his case.