A killer husband was convicted Monday of hiring a hitman to murder his 17-year-old wife in a La Mirada park — a crime that went unsolved for nearly two decades.
Jurors deliberated over four and a half days before finding Morrad Ghonim, 43, guilty of the murder of his wife, Victoria Ghonim. She was shot on July 23, 1992, while sitting in a car with her husband and infant son in La Mirada Creek Park.
Ghonim claimed the shooting was the result of an argument his wife had with nearby people, but the triggerman later testified that story was false because the husband paid the killer to murder the teen-aged wife.
The jury panel also found true the special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and murder for financial gain, as well as a gun allegation.
Prosecutors earlier decided not to seek the death penalty and Ghomin is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. A motions hearing and possible sentencing is set for Dec. 19.
The killing remained unsolved, until 2009 when DNA linked a man named Leon Martinez to the crime. Martinez was arrested in October 2010 and convicted in March of first-degree murder.
He later struck a deal with prosecutors and testified against Ghonim during a preliminary hearing. Martinez said he was offered $10,000 by Ghonim to kill the woman, and was actually paid $5,000.
Martinez is expected to be sentenced on Dec. 6 to 28 years to life in prison in exchange for his testimony.
Ghonim was charged in his wife’s killing about a month after Martinez was convicted. At the time, Ghonim was living in Antigua. He was arrested in May 2015 and returned to the United States.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Howard Cooper testified that according to Ghonim, he was with his wife and infant son at the La Mirada park standing near a foot bridge when they heard catcalls coming from a group of people standing nearby.
Ghonim told the investigator his wife began shouting back at the group, then the family hustled back to their car, where his wife continued to shout at the group, Cooper said. Ghonim said that as he was about to turn on the vehicle, he heard gunshots, and he quickly started the car and sped away, realizing then that his wife had been shot.
Cooper said Ghonim claimed he never saw the actual shooter, but sped away trying to find a hospital. He was soon pulled over by a California Highway Patrol officer for running a red light, according to Cooper.
The CHP officer said Ghonim was sobbing, and the officer saw the woman in the vehicle suffering from a gunshot wound.
–City News Service