Death sentence for man who killed ex-girlfriend's father, sister in fiery 2007 attack

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SANTA ANA, California — A man convicted of killing the father and sister of his former girlfriend in a fiery attack on the family's Southern California home was sentenced to death Tuesday.

Iftekhar Murtaza, 30, was sentenced for the murders of Jay Dhanak, 56, and his daughter Karishma, 20, in May 2007, the Orange County district attorney's office said.

Murtaza was convicted more than a year ago of killing the pair in an attempt to reunite with his then-18-year-old ex-girlfriend Shayona Dhanak. She had ended their relationship citing her Hindu family's opposition to her dating a Muslim.

Authorities said Murtaza and a friend torched the family's Anaheim Hills home and kidnapped and killed Dhanak's father and sister, leaving their stabbed bodies burning in a park 2 miles from Dhanak's dorm room at the University of California, Irvine.

Dhanak's mother, Leela, survived the attack. She was stabbed and left unconscious on a neighbor's lawn.

Murtaza was interviewed by police several days later and arrested at a Phoenix airport with a ticket to his native Bangladesh and more than $11,000 in cash.

Jurors recommended that Murtaza be sentenced to death for the crimes. Two of his friends were also sentenced to life in prison for the murders, but one of them, Vitaliy Krasnoperov, recently had his conviction overturned on appeal.

Authorities said Krasnoperov hatched the plot to kill the Dhanaks with Murtaza and tried to help him hire a hit man. They said another friend, Charles Murphy Jr., helped Murtaza carry out the killings after Dhanak said she planned to go on a date with someone else.

During the trial, Murtaza testified that he told many people he wanted to kill the Dhanaks because he was distraught over the breakup, but he said he didn't mean it literally.

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