A man on trial for murdering two family members of his ex-girlfriend and nearly killing her mother implicated singer Bobby Brown's son for the crimes during testimony in Santa Ana.
But during closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, the prosecutor called Iftekhar Murtaza's claims of a home-invasion robbery murder by a friend and Landon Brown “ludicrous” and “ridiculous.”
According to Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy, convicted murderers Charles Anthony Murphy Jr., Vitaliy Krasnoperov and–it is alleged–Murtaza conspired to murder Jaypraykash and Leela Dhanak, the parents of Murtaza's ex-girlfriend, after then-UC Irvine freshman Shayona Dhanak told Murtaza her devout Hindi family disapproved of her having dated the non-practicing Muslim for two years. While the family did disapprove, the young woman actually just wanted out of the relationship, according to the prosecutor.
Murtaza planned the killings that would have the parents' bodies dumped at Mason
Regional Park in Irvine to create an event so “cataclysmic” that it would scare Shayona
Dhanak to perhaps switch schools to be closer to the ex-boyfriend's Van Nuys home and so he could “sail in like the white knight to save her,” Gundy told jurors (based on courtroom coverage by City News Service's Paul Anderson).
But on the night of May 21, 2007, Jaypraykash Dhanak arrived home first to meet his fate with his killers. The next to arrive home for an ambush was his 20-year-old daughter, Karishma, and 15 minutes after that mother Leela. The parents were beaten and stabbed, and along with their daughter they were beaten on their front lawn as they were being ushered into a van as flames shot out of their home that had been set ablaze.
Only the father and daughter made it into the van that drove off with them and the killers. A witnesses to the fires interrupted the transport of the mother, who ultimately survived her attack. Indeed, she testified in this trial, during which Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals reprimanded Murtaza for an outburst, warning he might be removed from the courtroom if it happened again. Murtaza assured Goethals it would not.
Gundy told jurors Wednesday Jaypraykash and Karishma Dhanak were still alive before their throats were slashed and they were set on fire at Mason Park. Defense attorney Doug Myers disputes the time of deaths offered by the prosecution.
The tale Murtaza spun in court was he shared the story about the religious differences with his pal Murphy and Landon Brown, Bobby Brown's oldest child, being born to a girlfriend of the then-17-year-old singer in 1986. (So, no, not one of Whitney Houston's kids.)
Murtaza claimed he was high on Ecstasy the night of the killings and went to Dhanak's home where he was discussing the family's religious differences with him when Murphy and Brown stormed the house and started the bloodshed out of a convoluted drug conspiracy and witness intimidation plot the ex-boyfriend claimed he knew nothing about.
Gundy, noting Murtaza “had six and a half years to think about an alternative story,” argued it makes no sense because witnesses saw the killers beating the victims on the front lawn and dragging them into Murtaza's van before the bodies were dumped in Irvine. “Why take the victims with them? Why not kill them in the house and get out of there?'' Gundy rhetorically asked. “It's one of many enormous holes in Iftekhar Murtaza's story.”
Based on that story, Gundy pointed out Murtaza also implicated someone else–himself–by admitting to knowledge of conspiracies to distribute drugs and intimidate a victim.
“Where do I begin? There's an enormous amount of evidence against the defendant in this case,” Gundy said. “It's overwhelming.” He accused Murtaza of “feigned sincerity” during his testimony and of providing “fabricated” alibi emails as evidence. He really was a stalker, according to the veteran prosecutor, whose office is seeking the death penalty.
Naturally, Myers has a different take, focusing on lovey-dovey text messages the exes traded before and after they broke up.
“It's really,” Myers said, “this love story gone awry in a Greek tragedy or Shakespearean tragedy sort of way.”