Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

A 42-year-old man who strangled his wife in their Irvine home, then took his children to a Jack in the Box restaurant for dinner, sobbed Tuesday when he was found guilty of first-degree murder.

Jurors, who deliberated about two days, had been allowed to consider involuntary manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter as well as second- and first-degree murder.

Shalabh Rastogi faces 25 years to life in prison, with sentencing scheduled for Jan. 8.

“On May 21, 2012, the defendant took matters into his own hands,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Herrera told jurors. “The defendant reached out his hands, put them around his wife’s neck and squeezed and squeezed… He took her last breath … and that was the defendant’s last act of control and rage.”

Rastogi’s attorney conceded her client killed 40-year-old Jalina George, but argued there was no premeditation and thus he should not be convicted of first-degree murder.

The couple had two daughters and a son and were living in Irvine following a 2011 move from Boston. Rastogi grew suspicious of infidelity when he came across a medical bill indicating his wife was taking birth control measures.

The defendant started using a locator tool on his wife’s cellphone to track her movements and at one point downloaded a chat session she had with her boyfriend, Herrera said.

The two quarreled multiple times about their marriage until they signed a document on May 17, 2012, finalizing “terms of their breakup,” the prosecutor said.

It came to a head May 21 after Rastogi dropped off their three children at a class and he and George quarreled again in their home. When George tried to leave, he wouldn’t let her, the prosecutor said.

“She says to him, ‘I’m going to take the kids,”‘ Herrera said.

The defendant then choked her, saying, “You’ve ruined my life, I’ve done everything for you and you cheat on me, and now you’re going to take my kids away from me,” according to Herrera.

After his wife fell unconscious, he bought plane tickets for himself and their children to India and then went to pick them up from their class, Herrera said. They stopped at a Jack in the Box on the way home for dinner and were eating at their residence when the children started asking questions about their mother’s whereabouts, the prosecutor said.

Rastogi’s attorney, Melani Bartholomew, told jurors, “This is not a whodunnit. We are here because this is an unjustified killing.”

The couple was an odd pairing, Bartholomew said. He was from a well-to- do family in the north of India and her family was less wealthy and from the south part of the country.

She was Roman Catholic and he was Hindu, Bartholomew said. They met when she got into trouble at their university and faced expulsion, but he used his status to lobby on her behalf and they fell in love, Bartholomew said.

Rastogi was content to remain in India working for his uncle’s firm, but she dreamed of emigrating to the U.S.

They bought a big house in Boston in 2009 with a pool, but sold that home at a loss because she wanted to chase Hollywood dreams in California, Bartholomew said.

Rastogi converted to Catholicism for his wife and became a devoted member of the religion, his attorney said.

The two argued about all of the auditions she was dragging the children to that sometimes led her to take them out of school, Bartholomew said.

When Rastogi, who had a vasectomy seven years prior, confronted her about the birth control, she concocted a lie about taking the medication for acne, Bartholomew said.

—City News Service

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