The owner of a Baton Rouge automobile dealership pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in the alleged murder-for-hire of his former wife, to whom he owed more than $1 million as part of a divorce settlement.
Hamid Ghassemi, 64, is being held without bond on a first-degree murder charge in the slaying of Taherah Ghassemi, 54. Last seen alive April 11, she was found on May 16 buried in a shallow grave in rural St. Helena Parish with a gunshot wound to the head.
Hamid Ghassemi, shackled and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, entered his plea of not guilty before state District Judge Lou Daniel. James Rothkamm enrolled as his attorney.
Ghassemi’s next court appearance is Dec. 15.
His co-defendants — Daniel Humberto Richter, 33, of Walker; and Tyler Lee Ashpaugh, 21, and Skyler W. Williams, 18, both of Denham Springs — are scheduled to be arraigned over the next several days.
An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted all four men last week on first-degree murder charges.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III has said he is weighing whether to seek the death penalty against Ghassemi, Richter and Ashpaugh. Williams was 17 at the time of the killing and is not eligible for the death penalty.
Authorities have said cellphone records led them to Ghassemi and Ashpaugh.
Ashpaugh told detectives that he went with Richter and Williams to Taherah Ghassemi’s North Laurel Creek Court home and abducted her, putting her in the trunk of her car. They drove to a heavily wooded area near Pine Grove, where she was buried, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office has said. The woman was shot at some point.
Her burned car was found April 12 in Baton Rouge.