[UPDATED with New Trial:] Vitaliy Krasnoperov Accused of Murder in Plot with 2 Burned Bodies

Categories: Crime-iny
Vitaliy Krasnoperov
UPDATE, JUNE 7, 11:52 A.M.: 25-year-old Hollywood resident Vitaliy Krasnoperov is accused of conspiring with childhood friend Iftekhar Murtaza via online instant messages to plan and carry out the kidnapping, murder and setting ablaze of the sister and father of Murtaza's ex-girlfriend four years ago.

The first trial of Krasnoperov ended in mistrial last month, but he isn't off the hook yet. An Orange County judge has consolidated the murder trials of Krasnoperov and another man authorities have tied to the plot, Charles Anthony Murphy Jr., 25, of Mission Hills. Their trial is now scheduled to begin later this year.

Jayprakash Dhanak
The crime was horrific even by horrific Orange County standards. Sometime after 6:30 p.m. on May 21, 2007, 56-year-old Jaypraykash Dhanak, who worked with his wife Leela Dhanak in Irvine, was in his Anaheim Hills home alone after leaving work and agreeing to meet her there later. But someone entered the home and forcibly restrained Dhanak before beating and repeatedly stabbing him. He was left in a bathroom while his attackers awaited the arrival of 54-year-old Leela and her daughter Karishma Dhanak, 20.

After being
dropped off at the home around 10:30 p.m., the daughter was forcibly detained. When the mother arrived about 15 minutes later, she 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.

However, 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.

Karishma Dhanak
The next day, the bodies of Jaypraykash and Karishma Dhanak were found set ablaze on a bike trail at Mason Regional Park in Irvine. Leela spent a month in the hospital as a result of her wounds, including about three weeks in a coma.

Anaheim Police detectives investigating the case quickly indentified Murtaza, the former boyfriend of Karishma's then-18-year-old sister
Shayona Dhanak, as a suspect. Then a UC Irvine freshman who resided in the campus dorms, Shayona had ended a nearly three-year relationship with Murtaza in March of '07. The 25-year-old Van Nuys man is alleged to have become angry not with her over the breakup but her parents. The Dhanaks, practicing Hindus, did not approve of their daughter dating Murtaza, a non-practicing Muslim.

Iftekhar Murtaza
He allegedly fled to Phoenix, Arizona, where he was arrested on May 25, 2007, attempting to board a plane to India with a one-way ticket and $11,000 in cash. He was later extradited back to Orange County and the subsequent investigation led the arrests of Krasnoperov and Murphy.

The evidence against the trio--well, at least the evidence released to the public via the Orange County District Attorney's office--includes IM's they have sent to one another via AOL. These include Murtaza allegedly telling Krasnoperov he wanted to bump off the elder Dhanaks and burn down their house. Krasnoperov is accused of enlisting Murphy, who Murtaza is said to have offered $30,000 and arranged to meet the day Jayprakash Dhanak was attacked by intruders.

Krasnoperov's first trial ended with a hung jury in May, but Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals agreed on Monday to rejoin the trials of Krasnoperov and Murphy, which had previously been severed for various legal reasons. Currently being held without bail, the pair could get life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Murtaza, who is also being held without bail, could get a death sentence if convicted after his trial, which is scheduled to begin next year.

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