A Walker man who worked for Baton Rouge automobile dealer Hamid Ghassemi pleaded guilty Monday in an alleged murder-for-hire plot targeting Ghassemi's ex-wife in 2015, telling a judge he took part in her abduction and slaying and also personally buried her body after she was shot in the head.
Daniel Humberto Richter, 36, had been charged with first-degree murder and faced a possible sentence of life in prison. However, under terms of an agreement that requires him to aid prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and second-degree kidnapping in return for a 50-year prison term. Sentencing is expected May 10.
Richter’s attorney, Jeffrey Heggelund, said outside state District Judge Lou Daniel’s courtroom that Richter took responsibility for his role, regrets the role he played and is remorseful.
A former co-worker of Baton Rouge automobile dealer Hamid Ghassemi won't face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the all…
In July, a Denham Springs man also charged with first-degree murder in the case pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a 40-year prison term. Tyler Lee Ashpaugh, 24, admitted shooting Taherah Ghassemi multiple times in the head but claimed she was already dead by the time he shot her.
Hamid Ghassemi, 67, and Skyler Williams, 20, of Denham Springs, remain charged with first-degree murder. Ghassemi is scheduled to be tried next week, but the trial is expected to be postponed. Williams is set for trial April 22.
The body of Taherah Ghassemi, 54, was found in May 2015 in a heavily wooded area of St. Helena Parish. She had been reported missing the prior month from her Baton Rouge home.
Hamid Ghassemi is accused of paying $10,000 to have his ex-wife killed following their bitter divorce. He had paid her $1 million in a divorce settlement.
A 23-year-old Denham Springs man admitted Thursday he shot the ex-wife of Baton Rouge automobile dealer Hamid Ghassemi multiple times in the …
A factual basis included in Richter’s written plea agreement states that Hamid Ghassemi solicited Richter’s assistance to kill his former wife and their son, Hamed Ghassemi, and dispose of their bodies. Hamid Ghassemi instructed Richter to recruit Williams, who then brought Ashpaugh into the scheme, the factual basis alleges, adding that Hamid Ghassemi provided a syringe of insulin and guns for use in the attack.
Richter, Williams and Ashpaugh waited in a Chevrolet Tahoe behind Taherah Ghassemi’s North Laurel Creek residence for her and Hamed Ghassemi to return home. When Taherah Ghassemi arrived, Richter sent Williams and Ashpaugh into the home while he waited in the vehicle, the factual basis says.
“Williams and Ashpaugh held Taherah at gunpoint waiting for Hamed to come home. Richter became impatient, entered the residence and told them that they had to take her. The three men struggled with Taherah in the house,” the document states. “Skyler placed her in a choke hold and threw her to the floor. Richter then helped pin her down and Ashpaugh injected her with the syringe.”
Previously filed court documents say the woman was injected with insulin.
“At some point during the struggle, Taherah was rendered unconscious and Richter returned to his vehicle while Ashpaugh and Williams loaded her into the trunk of her own vehicle. Richter drove the Tahoe back to the St. Helena area while Ashpaugh and Williams followed in the victim’s car. Williams and Ashpaugh took her out of the trunk and Ashpaugh shot her in the head,” the factual basis reads.
The factual basis filed in Ashpaugh’s case said Richter hit the woman in the neck several times.
A forensic pathologist has said Taherah Ghassemi was still alive but likely unconscious when she was shot, according to previously filed court documents.
The factual basis in Richter’s case says Williams, Ashpaugh and Richter had previously dug a grave but could not find it in the dark, so they covered her body with brush, the document states.
The three men returned to Import One, one of the dealerships Hamid Ghassemi owned at the time on Airline Highway, to meet him to get paid. Hamid Ghassemi was not there as planned and Ashpaugh and Williams insisted on being paid, so Richter used Ashpaugh’s phone to call Hamid Ghassemi and the three men went to Ghassemi’s home, the factual basis says.
Hamid Ghassemi gave Richter an envelope with $10,000, the document states.
Richter, Williams and Ashpaugh burned Taherah Ghassemi’s car on Chalma Avenue in Baton Rouge, and Richter split the money between Williams and Ashpaugh after removing a small amount of money for expenses, the factual basis says.
“The next morning Richter returned to the St. Helena location and buried the victim,” the document reads.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Hamid Ghassemi, meaning he would face a mandatory sentence of life behind bars if convicted as charged. Williams was 17 at the time of the slaying and is not eligible for the death penalty. Prosecutors have said they'll pursue a sentence of life in prison without parole if he's found guilty of first-degree murder.
Hamed Ghassemi was not injured. He has sued his father, Richter, Ashpaugh and Williams for monetary damages over the death of his mother.