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Awaiting trial for 8 years, BR man charged in his ex-wife's murder plot denied another delay

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BATON ROUGE - A Baton Rouge businessman accused of having his ex-wife killed in a gruesome murder-for-hire plot was denied another delay in his trial, a wait that's already dragged on more than eight years. 

Arrested in May 2015, 72-year-old Hamid Ghassemi is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of his ex-wife, Taherah Ghassemi. She was kidnapped, shot in the head and found buried in a remote part of St. Helena Parish about a month after she went missing back in 2015.  

On Wednesday, Judge Tarvald Smith refused Ghassemi's request to further postpone the trial, which has already been held up by a steady flow of complications, including the coronavirus pandemic and Ghassemi firing his own defense attorneys.

Ghassemi is accused of paying three hitmen $10,000 to carry out the murder: Tyler Ashpaugh, Daniel Richter and Skyler Williams. Two of them, Ashpaugh and Richter, took plea deals in 2018. However, Richter withdrew his guilty plea in 2021, and Ashpaugh was found dead from an apparent overdose in his cell at Angola prison earlier this year.

In the past few months, Williams has taken his own plea deal, and Richter has flipped his plea back to guilty, a reversal that happened just last week according to Baton Rouge court records. 

While Ashpaugh's initial deal entailed testifying against Ghassemi —who's now set to stand trial Aug. 7, 2023 — prosecutors would not say whether Richter and Williams would have to appear as witnesses.

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