Charles Anthony Murphy Jr. was found guilty today of murdering a father and daughter, trying to murder the man's wife and conspiring to murder the parents in a grisly 2007 case that included the bodies of the dead being set afire in an abandoned van. The Mission Hills 27-year-old could get life in state prison without parole, but his yet-to-be-tried partner (Iftekhar Murtaza at right) faces the death penalty.
After hearing the jury's verdict, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals set Murphy's sentencing for Jan. 4.
Murtaza's has a pre-trial hearing scheduled Friday, with opening statements so far to begin a month to the day later.
Krasnoperov, 26, of Hollywood, and–it is alleged–Murtaza, 28, of Van Nuys, conspired to murder the parents of Murtaza's ex-girlfriend because then-UC Irvine freshman Shayona Dhanak's devout Hindi family disapproved of her having dated the non-practicing Muslim.
After the break-up, Murtaza is accused of contacting his friend, Krasnoperov, online and telling him in an AOL Instant Messenger (IM) conversation that he wanted to kill Jaypraykash and Leela Dhanak. Murtaza is accused of having an IM discussion with Krasnoperov about ways to murder the victims, including burning their house down or using a hit man. Krasnoperov offered to contact someone whom he knew “used to do this type of work.”
On April 26, 2007, Murtaza is accused of having another online IM conversation with Krasnoperov to discuss an upcoming meeting, arranged by Krasnoperov. They are said to have planned to meet to negotiate the murders of the Dhanaks. Krasnoperov instructed Murtaza to obtain a picture of the victims by sending Shayona Dhanak an IM asking for a photograph from her recent family trip to India.
Around 1:30 p.m. on May 21, 2007, Murtaza is accused of contacting and exchanging a series of text messages with his childhood friend, Murphy, and offering him $30,000 “for a job.” Murtaza is accused of telling Murphy that they should meet in person to discuss the details. Murphy iagreed to meet and participate in the murders of the Dhanaks that night.
The elder Dhanaks worked together in Irvine, but on May 21, 2007, the husband beat his wife to their Anaheim Hills home by several hours, having arranged to meet the Mrs. there later. Sometime after 6:30 p.m., Murphy and another invader entered the house and forcibly restrained Jaypraykash Dhanak before beating and repeatedly stabbing him. He was left in a bathroom while his attackers awaited the arrival of Leela Dhanak.
But 20-year-old Karishma Dhank arrived home first.
She was forcibly detained after her 10:30 p.m. arrival. When her mother walked in 15 minutes later, Leela 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.
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 Dhanak spent a month in the hospital as a result of her wounds, including about three weeks in a coma.
Krasnoperov's first trial ended with a hung jury. This was Murphy's third time before a jury, as the Orange County District Attorney's office notes. His first trial also ended with a hung jury and the judge declared a mistrial in the second.
Like a jury did to Krasnoperov in December 2011, Murphy was convicted today of
two felony counts of special circumstances murder, one felony count of
attempted murder, and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Murphy faces sentencing enhancements that were found true for Krasnoperov: multiple murders, murder during the
commission of a burglary, and murder during the commission of kidnapping.
Krasnoperov was sentenced in November to life in state prison without the
possibility of parole.
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Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before "graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.