Hollywood man found guilty in 'instant message' killings
Vitaliy Krasnoperov, 26, helped Ifetkar Murtaza, 27, of Van Nuys devise an elaborate plan to kill the family of Murtaza's ex-girlfriend, Shayona Dhanak, after she broke up with him, prosecutor Howard Gundy said.
Dhanak's parents were devout Hindus who disapproved of the relationship with Murtaza, a non-practicing Muslim, he said.
Krasnoperov was never implicated in the physical killings because he was housebound after a motorcycle accident, but Gundy claimed he aided and abetted the planning and subsequent coverup of the crimes.
"He helped do these killings. He sent the instant messages, and he did contact people to help Murtaza kill this family," Gundy said. "We will seek justice for all these victims, and this is step in that direction."
Words can often be misinterpreted, he said, and his client was merely trying to calm down a friend.
The burned bodies of Dhanak's father, Jaypraykash Dhanak, 56, and her sister, Karishma Dhanak, 20, were found in 2007 on a bike trail near UC Irvine. Her mother, Leela Dhanak, 54, was found badly beaten and burned outside their Anaheim Hills home.
Jurors deadlocked Thursday on whether Charles Murphy Jr., 27, of Mission Hills carried out the killings at Murtaza's behest.
Prosecutors said Murtaza, who has been charged with capital murder but is yet to be tried, blamed Shayona Dhanak's parents for the breakup and said they pressured her to end the relationship.
An angry Murtaza hatched a plot to kill the family after contacting Krasnoperov online and telling him in an AOL Instant Messenger conversation that he wanted to kill the family so the couple could date again, prosecutors said.
After Murtaza said he did not know how to kill them, Krasnoperov, using the name Crowseeker, advised Murtaza "to burn the house down."
"I mean we're not professional killers ... probably better to if we hire someone..," Krasnoperov later wrote before offering to contact someone whom he knew "used to do this type of work."
Krasnoperov later instructed Murtaza to obtain a picture of the victims by sending Shayona Dhanak, who was a UC Irvine student, an instant message asking for a photograph from her recent family trip to India, prosecutors said.
Murtaza is accused of contacting and exchanging a series of text messages with his childhood friend, Murphy, on May 21, 2007, and offering him $30,000 "for a job."
Prosecutors charged that the assailants entered the Dhanaks’ home and forcibly restrained Jayprakash Dhanak. They then beat and stabbed him repeatedly before putting him in a bathroom while waiting for his wife and daughter to arrive home, prosecutors said.
When the two arrived several hours later, the assailants stabbed Leela Dhanak in the stomach and doused her with gasoline, prosecutors said. They then set the house on fire and attempted to move the three victims to a van outside, the officials said.
Prosecutors said the commotion and flames attracted neighbors, and as they approached, the assailants stuffed the father and daughter into the van and fled the scene. Officers found the wife unconscious on a neighbor's lawn and the family home engulfed in flames.
Anaheim police quickly tied Murtaza to the attack, and he was arrested in Phoenix as he attempted to board a flight to India four days later. Krasnoperov was arrested a month later, and Murphy was taken into custody in August 2007.
During the trial, Murphy's attorney repeatedly sought to show that prosecutors could not connect his client to the crime scene except with cellphone records that were inexact.
Krasnoperov was found guilty by a jury of two felony counts of special circumstances murder, one felony count of attempted murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder.
It was his second trial because a previous jury was unable to reach a verdict earlier this year.
He faces a life sentence in state prison without the possibility of parole. Gundy said prosecutors will seek to retry Murphy.
"A hung jury is just a step in the process. We don't go away," he said.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Vitaliy Krasnoperov with his attorney in 2007. Krasnoperov was found guilty of murder Thursday. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press