Thursday, June 14, 2007

Follow-up: Iftekhar Murtaza

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

Follow-up to this posting, "Murder in Anaheim," from this source, on June 14, 2007:
Murtaza appears in court

A former boyfriend is charged with killing his ex-girlfriend's father and sister and attempting to kill her mother.

FULLERTON – Iftekhar Murtaza is no longer just a “person of interest.”

He's now an accused killer, charged on counts of murder in the deaths of his former girlfriend's father and sister and on a count of attempted murder in the beating of her mother.

Three weeks and two days after the crimes that have drawn nationwide media attention, Murtaza, 22, appeared Wednesday in an Orange County courthouse for the first time, just hours after the District Attorney's Office filed charges against him. No bail was set.

The Van Nuys man's next scheduled court appearance is July 6.

The charges have been anticipated since last month, after Murtaza was picked up as a “person of interest” at a Phoenix airport on his way to Bangladesh. Murtaza was returned to Anaheim earlier this week, and Wednesday was the deadline for filing charges.

In the Fullerton courtroom, an expressionless Murtaza stood in a beige cage during a brief hearing.

Handcuffed, he talked quietly to his appointed attorney, Bryan Harris of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, before moving behind dark glass away from the cameras that lined the small room. He quietly stated his birth date to the judge and answered “no” when asked if he had an attorney.

The judge granted Harris's request to postpone the arraignment until next month, when Murtaza could enter a plea.

After Wednesday's hearing, Harris said another public defender will later represent Murtaza. He declined to comment about Murtaza's reaction to the charges.

Murtaza's attorney for the Phoenix extradition hearing said his client is innocent and had a round-trip ticket to visit his ailing grandmother in Bangladesh.

Law-enforcement officials say they thought Murtaza lashed out against the family members of his former girlfriend, Shayona Dhanak. The family opposed the couple's relationship mostly because Murtaza is Muslim and Dhanak is Hindu, the officials say in court papers.

Murtaza was accused of killing Shayona Dhanak's father, Jayprakash Dhanak, and her older sister, Karishma Dhanak, as well as attempting to kill her mother, Leela Dhanak.

The mother was found beaten outside the family's burning Anaheim Hills home on May 21.

“She has not recovered enough to talk about this case,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, the District Attorney's Office spokeswoman.

About five hours after the house fire, authorities found the burned bodies of Jayprakash Dhanak and Karishma Dhanak near an Irvine bike trail, a few minutes' drive from Shayona Dhanak's dorm room.

Prosecutors added special circumstances to the murder charges, alleging the killings took place during kidnappings – meaning Jayprakash Dhanak and Karishma Dhanak were killed after being taken, Schroeder said.

Murtaza could face the death penalty.

Police said they are looking for at least one other person connected with the crimes. Witnesses reported seeing at least two people fleeing the Dhanaks' home during the fire.
Comments there are interesting too.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 6/14/2007 05:00:00 AM