Dr Rafi Panhwar’s Murderer Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder


Dr Rafi Panhwar

Palm Spring, California: The jury found the killer of Dr Rafi Panhwar guilty of first-degree murder. The airosecution is expected to demand life-in-prison for the killer when sentence is pronounced on February 6. The guilty verdict pronounced a year-and-half after the murder took place came as a great relief to the bereaved family and friends of the victim.
It may be recalled that 47-year-old Dr Rafi Panhwar, a Pakistani businessman, was murdered in his own 7-Eleven store, in La Quinta California by his manager Prateek Bhargava in June 2004. The first trial ended in a hung jury in September last, which led to retrial.
The jury found that 26-year old Prateek Bhargava personally and deliberately pulled the trigger of a firearm to kill his boss Dr Pahnwar. The motive established by the prosecutor was that Panwar was the only person who knew of Bhargava's embezzlement of tens of thousands of dollars from his 7-11 business and Bhargava killed him to prevent him from going to the authorities.
After killing Dr Rafi by firing multiple shots from a close range the killer bundled the dead body in a carpet of the 7-Eleven store and put it in the trunk of the SUV owned by the deceased. He then drove the vehicle away from the crime scene and left it in the parking lot of the Cabazon outlets from where it was recovered by police after a few days.
The prosecution's approach of focusing only on forensic evidence, and the witnesses directly involved in the case seems to have convinced the second jury of the guilt of the accused. In the first trial the prosecution had presented a huge amount of evidence that seemed to have distracted the members of the jury from the central point.
After three days of deliberations, and more than three weeks of testimony, the jury finally came back with a verdict - "We, the jury, find Prateek Bhargava guilty." Now that Prateek Bhragava has been found guilty, he could spend 50 years to life behind bars.
"The evidence was clear, it was clearly this defendant that committed the murder, and the defense arguments were not based on evidence, and I am glad the jury came through with the right verdict," said District Attorney Otis Sterling.
The guilty verdict came as a relief for the shooting victim's wife, his brother, members of the extended family and friends. Talking to the TV Channel 3 after the verdict the widow of late Dr. Panhwar said, "I feel good, but I feel bad. I miss my husband, and I thank God first. And then I thank the whole system for doing a good job and for getting justice." She said it was very hard on her son. Even though Prateek Bhargava should be in prison for a long time, it's hard to explain to a seven year old child that his father is never coming back, though the bad guy has been caught and punished. She added that that she had no answer when her son said, ''Will Papa come back, now".



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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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