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