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Jury finds Baton Rouge businessman guilty of murder in his wife's 2015 killing

10 months 1 week 3 days ago Monday, August 14 2023 Aug 14, 2023 August 14, 2023 11:00 PM August 14, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

UPDATE: Hamid Ghassemi was sentenced to life in prison in September. Read more details here.

BATON ROUGE - On Tuesday, jurors found a Baton Rouge businessman guilty of first-degree murder, eight years after he hired three men to kill his ex-wife so he wouldn't have to pay her a $1 million judgment.

The verdict came Tuesday evening, a little more than a week after the trial kicked off following years of delays. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2023. His conviction carries an automatic life sentence. 

“This case has been delayed so many times because of all kinds of different reasons, but a lot on the defendant's part. The judge was steady throughout, he granted his continuances when he needed to and it was something that we disagreed with, but in the long run it was the right thing to do to make sure we had a proper verdict and that verdict stayed,” East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said.

One of the hitmen testified Monday that Hamid Ghassemi, 72, approached him in early 2015 and asked him to kill Teherah Ghassemi and the Ghassemi's son Hamed. Teherah Ghassemi was killed in April 2015 but Hamed Ghassemi was not harmed. The son testified against his father last week.

“It’s been a painful eight years and it’s done with now. I’m happy that he’s going to live the rest of his life knowing that he is finally busted for what he did. He’s been trying to get away with it, he’s been trying to blame it on me, he’s been trying everything that he can and it’s over with now,” Hamed Ghassemi said.

The state rested its case Tuesday and Ghassemi's attorney Bob Neal opted against calling any witnesses. In closing arguments, prosecutors reiterated points told by their witnesses: Ghassemi was angry with his ex-wife and didn't want to pay her $1 million. Neal suggested that Hamed Ghassemi killed his mother so he would inherit the money.

Hamed Ghassemi, 45, had lived with his mother for about 10 years as a grown man and told jurors last week that his mother had wanted him to live in "a strict Iranian way." Neal said Hamed Ghassemi "had more than a million motives" to kill his mother.

The night before Teherah Ghassemi died, her son had sent her a text in Farsi that Neal translated to "Leave me alone you f------ b----." Prosecutors said the correct translation was, "Leave me the f--- alone. I'm moving."

Neal also attacked the credibility of the state's main witness, hitman Daniel Richter. He called Richter a convicted rapist and con man who snitched to win favorable treatment. He also noted that Richter dug only one grave but said Hamid Ghassemi had said he wanted his ex-wife and his son killed.

According to the state, Hamid Ghassemi paid $10,000 to have the men abduct and kill his wife, whose body was found in a shallow grave in St. Helena Parish. Richter said he buried her alone after Hamid Ghassemi had requested that he make it impossible for anyone to find her body. The other two involved, Richter said, stopped taking his calls after they were paid.

Teherah Ghassemi, 54, was killed in April 2015 because she was scheduled to return to her native Iran and Hamid Ghassemi feared he wouldn't see his money again, Richter testified.

Richter, Skyler Williams and Tyler Ashpaugh each pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Ashpaugh received a 40-year term after acknowledging in 2018 that he shot Ms. Ghassemi. He died in prison this year.

Hamid Ghassemi owned used car lots in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. He faces a life term if convicted of first-degree murder. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.

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