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Daily Pilot

Man gets life for role in double murder

The two dead were related to a UC Irvine student.

By Bradley Zint

9:08 PM PST, November 9, 2012

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A Hollywood man was sentenced Friday to life in state prison without parole for his part in the 2007 murder of the father and sister of a UC Irvine student, authorities said.

Vitaliy Krasnoperov, 26, was found guilty in December of two counts of special-circumstances murder, one count of attempted murder and one for conspiracy to commit murder, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.

He had sentencing enhancements for multiple murders, and murder during the commission of burglary and kidnapping.

It was Krasnoperov's second trial after a jury in May 2011 failed to reach a verdict.

Prosecutors said Krasnoperov and his co-defendants — Charles Anthony Murphy Jr., 27, of Mission Hills, and Iftekhar Murtaza, 28, of Van Nuys — targeted the Anaheim Hills family of Murtaza's ex-girlfriend, Shayona Dhanak, then an 18-year-old freshman living in the UCI dorms.

After the breakup of their two-year relationship, Murtaza contacted Krasnoperov and stated his intent to kill Shayona's parents, Jaypraykash and Leela Dhanak, according to prosecutors.

Murtaza was reportedly upset at Shayona's parents who, as practicing Hindus, allegedly did not approve of the relationship because Murtaza was a Muslim, though a nonpracticing one.

On May 21, 2007 — after Murtaza enlisted the help of Murphy, his childhood friend, with an offer of $30,000 "for a job," prosecutors said — the trio assaulted and took Jaypraykash, 56, and Shayona's 20-year-old sister, Karishma, from their home and lit it on fire. While there, prosecutors said, they also attacked Leela Dhanak, but failed to take her away from the home after a witness reported the fire and an Anaheim police officer responded to the scene.

At about 4 a.m. the next day at Mason Regional Park in Irvine, prosecutors said the men killed Jaypraykash and Karishma Dhanak and lit their bodies on fire. Murtaza was arrested in Arizona a few days after the incident while allegedly trying to flee to India with a one-way ticket and $11,000 in cash.

Krasnoperov and Murphy were arrested in June and August of 2007, respectively.

Leela Dhanak suffered life-threatening injuries, with stab wounds to her stomach, blunt-force injuries to her head and third-degree burns to her arm. She was in a coma for about three weeks, authorities said.

Murphy and Murtaza both face two felony counts of special-circumstances murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. They also face the same sentencing enhancements as Krasnoperov did.

The D.A. is seeking the death penalty against Murtaza. Murphy faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison without parole.

Murphy is facing another retrial. In his original trial, the jury was unable to reach a verdict; the retrial was declared a mistrial.

Murtaza is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Dec. 14 at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint