Prosecutors said Tuesday they'll pursue the death penalty against Baton Rouge automobile dealer Hamid Ghassemi if he is found guilty of first-degree murder in the alleged murder-for-hire of his ex-wife in 2015.
East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against the 66-year-old Ghassemi, who was indicted in September 2015 along with three other men.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against only Ghassemi.
"Based on the facts as we know them, we have chosen to seek the death penalty against Hamid Ghassemi as we believe that the evidence supports this consideration by the jury chosen to hear his case," District Attorney Hillar Moore III said.
Tommy Damico, who represents Ghassemi, said the death penalty notice was not unexpected.
"They still have to prove their case to get to the death penalty," he said.
Ghassemi does not have a trial date. His next court appearance is Wednesday.
In the notice of intent filed Tuesday, Cummings said the state will allege at Ghassemi's trial that he had the specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm and that he offered something of value for the killing of Taherah Ghassemi.
Hamid Ghassemi, according to authorities, paid $10,000 to have his 54-year-old former wife killed.
Her body was discovered May 16, 2015, in a shallow grave in rural St. Helena Parish. She had a gunshot wound to the head.
Cummings wrote that the slaying of Taherah Ghassemi was committed "in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner."
Damico said he finds it interesting that prosecutors aren't pursuing the death penalty against those who physically killed Taherah Ghassemi. Damico said he suspects those men will be testifying against his client.
Cummings has declined comment on whether Hamid Ghassemi's alleged accomplices are cooperating with prosecutors.
Ghassemi's co-defendants are Daniel Humberto Richter, 36, of Walker, and Tyler Lee Ashpaugh, 23, and Skyler Williams, 20, both of Denham Springs. They also were indicted on first-degree murder charges. Richter has a June 11 trial date.
Ashpaugh told detectives he went with Richter and Williams to Taherah Ghassemi's North Laurel Creek home and abducted her, authorities have said. She was put in the trunk of her sedan and driven to a heavily wooded area near Pine Grove, where she was buried. Her burned car was found in Baton Rouge on Chalma Avenue.
Richter once worked at one of Hamid Ghassemi's car dealerships, authorities have said. Ghassemi owned Import One and Import One Elite on Airline Highway.
Because of their ages at the time of the crime, Richter and Ashpaugh would face mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder. Williams was 17 at the time of the killing. Cummings indicated previously she intends to seek a life sentence without parole against Williams.
East Baton Rouge Parish's last capital murder trial was in 2015, when Lee Turner Jr. was convicted and condemned to die for fatally shooting two CarQuest Auto Parts employees during a 2011 robbery at the store on Airline Highway near Siegen Lane. Prior to that, Dacarius Holliday was found guilty and sentenced to death in 2010 in the 2007 beating death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old son.