Taherah Ghassemi, who authorities say was the victim of a murder-for-hire allegedly orchestrated by her ex-husband, was alive but probably not conscious when she was shot in 2015, an East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor revealed in a recent court filing.
Ghassemi's former husband, Baton Rouge automobile dealer Hamid Ghassemi, and three other men are charged with first-degree murder in her death. The 54-year-old Baton Rouge woman was found May 16, 2015, in a shallow grave in rural St. Helena Parish with a gunshot to the head.
A Walker man charged in the alleged murder-for-hire of Baton Rouge automobile dealer Hamid G…
Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings, who is prosecuting the case, said in a 19th Judicial District Court filing earlier this month that she recently met with forensic pathologist Dr. Yen Van Vo to discuss Taherah Ghassemi's injuries.
The victim had a neck injury prior to the single shot to the head but prosecutors have not yet provided specifics about the neck injury.
"Dr. Vo clarified that it is her expert medical opinion that although the injury to the victim's neck was sufficient to cause her death, she was still alive and most likely unconscious at the time that she was shot," Cummings stated.
Vo, a former East Baton Rouge Parish deputy coroner, is now a forensic pathologist with the Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office.
Hamid Ghassemi, 66, paid $10,000 to have his ex-wife killed, authorities have said. He and the other men — Tyler Ashpaugh, 23, and Skyler Williams, 19, both of Denham Springs, and Daniel Humberto Richter, 35, of Walker — have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bail.
The son of jailed Baton Rouge automobile dealer Hamid Ghassemi, who is charged with three ot…
Ashpaugh, according to authorities, told detectives he went with Richter and Williams to Taherah Ghassemi's North Laurel Creek home and abducted her. She was put in the trunk of her car and driven to a heavily wooded area near Pine Grove, where she was buried. Her burned Jaguar sedan was discovered on a field-lined stretch of Chalma Avenue in Baton Rouge.
"This is a very complicated case and neither Ms. Blouin nor I feel like it is appropriate for us to comment on pending litigation," Jim Boren, one of Ashpaugh's attorneys, said Thursday when asked about Vo's medical opinion. Ashpaugh also is represented by Lindsay Blouin, an East Baton Rouge Parish public defender.
Tommy Damico, one of Ghassemi's attorneys, said Cummings' disclosure of Vo's opinion "doesn't affect the defense of my case one way or the other."
David Rozas, one of Williams' attorneys, declined comment, as did Jeff Heggelund, who represents Richter.
Richter has asked to be tried separately from his three co-defendants. Authorities have said Richter once worked at one of Hamid Ghassemi's car dealerships.
Ghassemi owned Import One and Import One Elite on Airline Highway.
Ghassemi's cellphone records show Ashpaugh called him about 12:45 a.m. the morning after Taherah Ghassemi disappeared, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office has said. Ashpaugh's phone records indicate he had been at her home the night she disappeared and at the sites where her body and car were found, the Sheriff's Office said.