[UPDATED with 2nd Mistrial:] Charles Anthony Murphy Jr. Accused in Grisly Family Murders
UPDATE, MARCH 26, 4:21 P.M.: Charles Anthony Murphy Jr. is now 2-for-2 in murder trials against him ending in mistrial. His first was declared in December, and today Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals declared a second to give the defense more time to examine evidence the prosecution claims shows the Murphy and defendant Iftekhar Murtaza texted each other two days after Jaypraykash Dhanak and his daughter Karishma Dhanak were killed and family matriarch Leela Dhanak nearly was.
Goethals set June 4 as the new trial date, but he indicated it may not actually start again until August due to the calendars of attorneys on both sides of the case.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 21, 8:45 A.M.: Most people do not find themselves at the center of one murder trial, but Charles Anthony Murphy Jr. begins his second in Santa Ana this morning.
A jury in December deadlocked over whether the Mission Hills 27-year-old participated in the grisly murders of two Anaheim Hills family members and attempted murder of a third. That same month, Vitaliy Krasnoperov, 26, of Hollywood, was convicted in the case and now faces life in prison without parole.
Prosecutors allege Krasnoperov and Murphy conspired with 27-year-old Iftekhar Murtaza of Van Nuys to murder Jaypraykash Dhanak, 56, and his daughter Karishma Dhanak, 20, and to try to do the same with family matriarch Leela Dhanak, now 58, at the family home in May 2007.
Shayona Dhanak, then a UC Irvine freshman, had broken up with Murtaza, whose Hindi parents disapproved of because he was a non-practicing Muslim.
Krasnoperov did not carry out the physical attacks, but he was convicted of having helped his childhood friend Murtaza in the planning and recruiting of Murphy, who prosecutors say was to be paid $30,000 for allegedly helping Murtaza carry out the brutal killings.
Evidence presented at trial showed Krasnoperov informed Murtaza via AOL instant messages that he wanted to kill Jaypraykash and Leela Dhanak. Murphy's jury will be told of text messages where his childhood friend, Murtaza, allegedly offered $30,000 for a "job."
The Dhanaks worked together in Irvine, but on May 21, 2007, the husband beat the wife home by several hours, having arranged to meet the Mrs. there later. Sometime after 6:30 p.m., invaders entered the house and forcibly restrained Dhanak before beating and repeatedly stabbing him. He was left in a bathroom while his attackers awaited the arrival of Leela and Karishma.
After being dropped off at the home around 10:30 p.m., Karishma was forcibly detained. When the mother arrived about 15 minutes later, she was immediately attacked and stabbed in the stomach. The home was then doused in gasoline and set ablaze as the attackers tried to move the father, mother and daughter into a van parked outside.
However, a witness approached the home because the fire had spread by then. The attackers only managed to drive off with Jaypraykash and Karishma Dhanak in the van. Leela Dhanak was left unconscious on her neighbor's lawn. The witness managed to flag down a passing patrol car, and an officer attended to the woman while the home was engulfed in flames and largely destroyed.
The next day, the bodies of Jaypraykash and Karishma Dhanak were found set ablaze on a bike trail at Mason Regional Park in Irvine, which is also near the college Murphy attended, Concordia University. Leela spent a month in the hospital as a result of her wounds, including about three weeks in a coma.
Krasnoperov's first trial also ended with a hung jury, but the second time he was found guilty of two felony counts of special circumstances murder, one felony count of attempted murder, and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder. The sentencing enhancements for multiple murders, murder during the commission of a burglary, and murder during the commission of kidnapping were found true. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 25.
Murphy 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. He faces sentencing enhancements for multiple murders, murder during the commission of a burglary, murder during the commission of kidnapping, and murder for financial gain. He also faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Murtaza, of Van Nuys, faces the same charges and enhancements as Murphy, but the Orange County District Attorney's office is seeking the death penalty against Murtaza. He has a pre-trial hearing scheduled June 22.
- Vitaliy Krasnoperov Found Guilty at Second Revenge-Murder Trial; Jury Deadlocks on Co-Defendant Charles Anthony Murphy Jr.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts