|For Immediate Release
Case # 07NF2178
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
OCDA TO SEEK DEATH PENALTY AGAINST MAN FOR MURDERING EX-GIRLFRIEND’S FATHER AND SISTER AND ATTEMPTING TO MURDER HER MOTHER
*The murdered victims’ bodies and house were set on fire; two co-defendants are also charged in this case
SANTA ANA – Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Tony Rackauckas announced today that he will seek the death penalty against a man for conspiring and murdering his ex-girlfriend’s father and sister and attempting to murder her mother and setting the murdered victims’ bodies on fire. Iftekhar Murtaza, 25, Van Nuys, 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. Murtaza is being held without bail and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on March 5, 2010, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-35, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Before the death penalty is pursued by the OCDA, a special circumstances committee meets and confers. The committee consists of the District Attorney, the Senior Assistant and Assistant District Attorney in charge of the Homicide Unit, and other prosecutors experienced in capital cases. The committee discusses the defendant’s record, the nature of the crime, and the vulnerability of the victim, among other factors. The committee also considers mitigating circumstances from the defense attorney. The final decision to pursue the death penalty rests on the District Attorney.
Co-defendants Vitaliy Krasnoperov, 24, Hollywood, and Charles Anthony Murphy, Jr., 25, Mission Hills, face the same charges as Murtaza. They both face sentencing enhancements for multiple murders, murder during the commission of a burglary, and murder during the commission of kidnapping, and Murphy faces an additional enhancement for murder for financial gain. If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Krasnoperov and Murphy are both being held without bail and are scheduled for the pre-trial hearing with Murtaza on March 5, 2010.
In March 2007, 18-year-old Shayona Dhanak was a freshman at the University of California, Irvine, living in the campus dorms. Her father Jaypraykash Dhanak, 56, mother Leela Dhanak, 54, and sister Karishma Dhanak, 20, lived in the family home in Anaheim Hills.
On March 29, 2007, 18-year-old Shayona Dhanak ended a two-year dating relationship with Murtaza. The Dhanaks disapproved of the relationship partly because they were practicing Hindus and Murtaza was a non-practicing Muslim. Murtaza is accused of becoming angry about the break-up, believing that Shayona Dhanak’s parents were responsible because they did not like him and had pressured her to end the relationship.