A former Baton Rouge automobile dealer accused in the April 2015 murder-for-hire of his ex-wife allegedly hired one of his accomplices to attack the couple's son a month before the slaying, a prosecutor said Thursday.
The attack on Hamid Ghassemi's son, Hamed Ghassemi, occurred on March 5, 2015. Hamid Ghassemi's wife, Taherah Ghassemi, disappeared April 11, 2015, and her body wasn't found until May 16 of that year.
East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings said previously that Hamid Ghassemi wanted his ex-wife and son killed on the same night. But only Taherah Ghassemi was abducted from her Baton Rouge home and killed that night.
The 69-year-old Hamid Ghassemi, who paid his ex-wife $1 million in a divorce settlement, is accused of paying $10,000 to have her killed.
In a court filing Tuesday in the murder case, Cummings disclosed for the first time that Daniel Humberto Richter — who pleaded guilty in 2018 to manslaughter and second-degree kidnapping of Taherah Ghassemi in return for a future 50-year prison term — told prosecutors that Hamid Ghassemi hired Skyler Williams to attack Hamed Ghassemi prior to the date his mother was killed.
Cummings is seeking a judge's approval to use that information at Hamid Ghassemi's trial, which is scheduled for March 16. She also wants the jury to hear that the murder-for-hire plot targeted both Taherah Ghassemi and her son.
Tommy Damico, one of Hamid Ghassemi’s attorneys, said Wednesday he plans to object to the prosecutor’s request.
“We certainly don’t believe it’s true. These guys are saying lies … trying to put themselves in a better position,” he said.
Williams, 22, of Denham Springs, also is charged with first-degree murder in the case and faces a possible life sentence without parole if found guilty on that charge. He was 17 when Taherah Ghassemi, 54, was killed.
The March 2015 attack on Hamed Ghassemi was documented by Baton Rouge police, Cummings stated in her court filing Tuesday. No arrest was made because Hamed Ghassemi could not identify his attacker.
Richter, 38, of Walker, later told prosecutors after Taherah Ghassemi was killed that Hamid Ghassemi had hired Williams to attack his son, the filing says.
Richter, who once worked for Hamid Ghassemi, admitted taking part in Taherah Ghassemi's abduction and slaying, and said he buried her body in rural St. Helena Parish.
Another man, Tyler Lee Ashpaugh, 25, of Denham Springs, pleaded guilty in 2018 to manslaughter in exchange for a future 40-year prison sentence. He admitted shooting Taherah Ghassemi in the head but claimed she was already dead when he shot her.
A forensic pathologist has said Taherah Ghassemi was still alive but likely unconscious when she was shot, according to previously filed court documents.
In the documents Cummings filed Tuesday, she says Richter and Ashpaugh revealed to prosecutors that they were unable to kill Hamed Ghassemi on April 11, 2015, because "he did not return home immediately after work that night."
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Hamid Ghassemi, so he would be sentenced to life behind bars if convicted of first-degree murder.
He owned Import One and Import One Elite on Airline Highway at the time of his former wife's death.
Hamed Ghassemi has sued his father, Richter, Ashpaugh and Williams for monetary damages over the death of his mother.