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Hollywood man gets life in O.C. revenge massacre

November 9, 2012 |  4:55 pm

Fire investigators search for clues after the fire at the Dhanak home in Anaheim Hills in 2007. A Hollywood man was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole in the fire and killings that left two people dead.
The conspiracy began with a series of instant messages, prosecutors said: Iftekhar Murtaza's girlfriend had broken up with him after two years because her parents disapproved of him, and he told a friend that he wanted revenge. 

Karishma DhanakOver the next several months in 2007, prosecutors said, Murtaza and his friends devised the plan in which they attacked the family -- killing the girlfriend's father and sister, and burning their gasoline-doused bodies; stabbing and beating the mother so severely she was left in a coma for weeks -- and setting fire to the family's Anaheim Hills home.

And on Friday, one of Murtaza's friends, Vitaliy Krasnoperov, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the crime, according to a statement from the Orange County district attorney's office.

Krasnoperov, 26, was found guilty by a jury in December 2011 of two felony counts of special circumstances murder, one felony count of attempted murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder, prosecutors said. The conviction included sentencing enhancements for multiple murders, murder during the commission of a burglary and murder during the commission of a kidnapping.

Jayprakash DhanakIt was the second jury trial for Krasnoperov, a Hollywood resident. The first jury was unable to reach a verdict. 

Prosecutors said the conspiracy began March 29, 2007, when Murtaza's girlfriend, Shayona Dhanak, ended their relationship.

Her parents, who were practicing Hindus, disapproved of the relationship, partly because Murtaza was a non-practicing Muslim. He believed they had pressured Dhanak, an 18-year-old freshman at UC Irvine, to break up, according to prosecutors.

Murtaza contacted Krasnoperov through instant messages online. Prosecutors said Murtaza told his friend he wanted Dhanak's parents killed and was contemplating burning their house down or hiring a hitman. Krasnoperov responded that he knew someone who "used to do this type of work."

On May 21, 2007, prosecutors said, Murtaza contacted childhood friend Charles Anthony Murphy and offered him $30,000 -- "for a job." 

That evening, after 6:30 p.m., prosecutors said, the three entered Dhanak's home in Anaheim Hills and  beat and stabbed the father, Jaypraykash Dhanak, and put him in a bathroom as they waited for other family members to come home. 

About four hours later, prosecutors said, the girlfriend's sister, Karishma Dhanak, 20, returned home, and the three are accused of detaining her. About 15 minutes later, the mother, Leela Dhanak, got home from work, and prosecutors said she was attacked and stabbed in the stomach. 

The men are accused of then pouring gasoline throughout the home and setting it on fire, and attempting to move the three victims to a van parked outside. They are accused of continuing to beat Jaypraykash Dhanak outside the home. He was severely injured and unable to defend himself. 

Someone in a nearby park saw the fire and began running toward the house. As the person approached, prosecutors said, the three men loaded the father and the girlfriend's sister into the van, and they fled the scene. 

The witness flagged down a police officer, who was the first to arrive on the scene. He found Leela Dhanak unconscious on her neighbor's lawn. She was taken to a hospital with stab wounds to her stomach, blunt force trauma injuries to her head and third-degree burns on her arm. The life-threatening injuries, prosecutors said, left her in a coma for three weeks and the hospital for a month.

Shortly after 4 a.m., on May 22, 2007, five hours after they fled the Dhanak's home, prosecutors said, the three took Jaypraykash Dhanak and Karishma Dhanak to a bike path in Mason Regional Park in Irvine. Prosecutors said they killed the father and daughter, poured gasoline on their bodies and set them on fire. 

On May 25, 2007, Murtaza was arrested in Phoenix as he attempted to board a flight to India. He had a one-way ticket and $11,000 in cash. Weeks later, he was extradited to Orange County. 

Krasnoperov was arrested on June 22, 2007, and Murphy on Aug. 17, 2007. 

Murtaza and Murphy face charges of two felony counts of special circumstances murder, one felony count of attempted murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder. Murtaza, 28, of Van Nuys awaits trial; prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Murphy faces his third trial, prosecutors said, because a previous jury could not reach a verdict and the second trial was declared a mistrial. 


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-- Rick Rojas

Photo: Fire investigators search for clues after the fire at the Dhanak home in Anaheim Hills. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times.

Photos: Karishma (top) and Jaypraykash Dhanak.