An Indian professor-turned-hotelier, charged with ordering the contract killing of his African-American daughter-in-law because she was not an Indian, faces the death penalty as his trial opens on Monday.
Chiman Rai, 69, allegedly hired two hit men for US$ 10,000 to kill 22-year-old Sparkle Michelle Rai in April 2000 as he did not approve of her marriage to his son Rajeev Rai alias Ricky.
Sparkle, also a former employee of Chiman, was found strangled and stabbed to death at her apartment by Ricky while the couple's seven-month-old daughter was unharmed.
The case went cold until two years ago when Chiman and four others were arrested following a tip off. The case grabbed headlines as it was termed an 'honour killing'.
After the accused were nabbed, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard had said it was a contract killing for 'cultural reasons'. The prosecution announced that it would seek the death penalty for Chiman
The young woman's Indian father-in-law didn't want his son married to a non-Indian woman. "A decision was made that Rai should not be a member of that family," Howard said.
"Efforts were made to dissuade her from continuing the relationship; efforts were made to get her to withdraw from the marriage. And when that did not work out, the decision was made to pay to have her killed," he said.
Chiman, 74-year old Willie Fred Evans, Herbert Green, 60, and the two alleged hired killers-- brothers Cleveland, 46, and 43-year-old Carl Clark were indicted on seven counts including murder, felony murder and aggravated assault.
Rai immigrated with his family in 1970 and taught maths at Alcorn State University in Mississippi for a decade. He later ran a supermarket and then bought a hotel in Kentucky where Sparkle was an employee.
According to a 2006 indictment, Evans acted as middlemen and passed the money to the Clarks.