Indian American gets life for black daughter-in-law’s murder

June 28th, 2008 - 2:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, June 28 (IANS) An India-born businessman in the US has been sentenced to life imprisonment, a day after he was held guilty of hiring killers to murder his son’s wife because she was an African American. Chiman Rai, 68, was given a life sentence Friday by a Fulton County jury in Atlanta, Georgia. The jury held him guilty on seven charges, including felony, murder and burglary.

Prosecutors had sought death penalty for Rai.

“This particular murder (is) outrageous, wantonly vile,” prosecutor Sheila Ross said. “The brutal murder of this young mother not only justifies but demands the death penalty.”

The prosecutors contended that Chiman Rai had his son Rajeev ‘Ricky’ Rai’s wife Sparkle, 22, killed because he was racist and believed that an inter-racial marriage would embarrass his family.

In April 2000, Sparkle was found murdered, strangled with a vacuum cord and stabbed more than a dozen times within weeks of her wedding to Ricky. Their six-month-old daughter Analla was left unharmed in a nearby room in their Union City apartment in Georgia.

The case baffled investigators for years until two witnesses came forward and identified Cleveland Clark as the killer who was helped by his brother, Carl Clark. Both were serving time in a Mississippi prison for armed robbery when they were charged for the contract killing.

Prosecutors said Rai, indicted in 2006 for the crime, teamed up with Willie Fred Evans and Herbert Green who served as middlemen. The two co-defendants testified in court that they arranged the killing. Both have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and cooperated with prosecutors.

Prosecutors said $10,000 was passed to the Clark brothers. Cleveland, who also faces the death penalty in a separate trial, carried out the killing.

Defence attorneys contended Evans and Green lied to cover up their own role in the killing, which looked like a robbery gone bad.

The prosecution’s case was helped by Ricky testifying during the trial that he and the victim had moved cities to escape family pressure about the relationship.

He, however, recanted his earlier statement given to the police soon after Sparkle’s murder that his parents were “kind of racist”.

Rai’s defence projected him as a hardworking businessman who wanted his son to marry an Indian woman but was far from a racist. They produced many of Rai’s black customers and fellow inmates before the jury, and each described Rai as tolerant and compassionate.

His attorneys also reminded the jury that their client had taught mathematics at the historically black Alcorn State University in Mississippi and ran a supermarket in a predominantly black area in Jackson.

Rai brought his family to the US in 1970 from India. After teaching and running a supermarket, he bought a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, where he hired Sparkle as a clerk.

Daughter of a news reporter, she fell in love with Ricky and became pregnant before their wedding.

Ricky also said in the court that he married an Indian woman after Sparkle’s death. He has not seen his daughter Analla, on whom he once doted, since shortly after the murder. He gave her custody to Sparkle’s father and step-mother.

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