Saturday, June 8, 2013

Jury Convicts Once High-Flying, Now Financially Strapped Real Estate Operator Of Bumping Off Wife; Messy Finances, Potential $30M Life Insurance Policy 'Cash-In' Seen As Murder Motive; Hubby's Estranged Kids Applaud Verdict As Justice For Mom

In Redwood City, California, the Contra Costa Times reports:

  • A Peninsula real estate mogul was found guilty Thursday of murdering his wife in their mansion to collect a $30 million insurance policy as creditors closed in on his crumbling empire.

    Pooroushasb "Peter" Parineh, 67, didn't react as the clerk in the San Mateo County Superior courtroom of Judge Lisa Novak read aloud the verdict, which leaves him facing a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The hefty penalty stems from the jurors finding that he fired the shot that killed his wife, Parima Parineh, in their Woodside home on April 13, 2010, for money.

    At trial, defense attorney Dek Ketchum argued Parima Parineh, depressed and distraught over the family's eroding fortune, killed herself to unlock the whopping insurance payment for the couple's three adult children. The policy, he noted, would pay out only to the Parineh siblings, who had a poor relationship with their father.

    The Parinehs' three children were frequently seen in the courtroom, and on Thursday, Austiag Hormoz Parineh, 33, of Irvine, cried with relief and hugged jurors after the verdict. "I'm just glad justice is done for my mother," he said, of the 56-year-old painter and homemaker.
  • Parima Parineh suffered three gunshot wounds -- two to her head -- the day of her murder. Deputy district attorney Jeff Finigan argued the position of her body, the numbers of shots, and the way her blood splattered made it clear the scene had been staged. Though the husband made a hysterical 911 call claiming his wife had killed herself, San Mateo County sheriff's detectives immediately suspected murder.

    Their theory found a motive in Peter Parineh's messy finances. Though his holdings had been worth up to $70 million in 2006, some bad investments, the real estate crash and a legal judgment left him facing ruin. Multiple properties were in foreclosure, including the family's Fox Hill Road mansion, and the funding for Parima Parineh's life insurance policy was about to collapse.(1)

    Jurors said Parineh's need for money certainly provided motive but was less decisive than the physical proof. "There really was no other possible explanation for why things looked the way they did," said Sood, the juror, fighting back tears.

    If jurors had rejected the prosecution theory that Parineh killed his wife for money, he would still have faced 50 to life in prison because he used a gun, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Novak, the judge, could overturn the jurors' decision on the money motive, but Wagstaffe saw it as a near impossibility. Parineh is due back July 12 at 1:30 p.m. for sentencing.

    "Justice was done today in San Mateo County," said Wagstaffe. "(Parineh's) defense wasn't just 'I didn't do it' -- it was 'she did it.' That's as vile as you can get." Parineh was being held at San Mateo County jail without bail.
For the story, see Peninsula real estate mogul guilty of killing wife for $30 million insurance payout.

(1) In Estate of Kramme v. Kramme (1978) 20 Cal.3d 567 [143 Cal. Rptr. 542, 573 P.2d 1369], the California Supreme Court made the following observation (in footnote 11) on allowing one who causes the death of another to benefit from such death, outside the context of inheritances/probate proceedings:
  • [I]t should be noted that the courts of this state have used sections 2224 and 3517 outside the probate context only to prevent a person who intentionally killed from benefiting from that unlawful act.

    For example, persons convicted of murder were denied proceeds of life insurance policies on their victims in Beck v. West Coast Life Ins. Co. (1952) 38 Cal.2d 643 [241 P.2d 544, 26 A.L.R.2d 979] and West Coast L. Ins. Co. v. Crawford (1943) 58 Cal. App.2d 771 [138 P.2d 384], and a man convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of his wife was not permitted to succeed by right of survivorship to property the couple held in joint tenancy in Abbey v. Lord (1959) 168 Cal. App.2d 499 [336 P.2d 226].

    On the other hand, in Throop v. Western Indemnity Co. (1920) 49 Cal. App. 322 [193 P. 263], a man who unintentionally caused his wife's death through negligent handling of a firearm was permitted to keep the proceeds of an insurance policy on her life. (But see Prudential Ins. Co. of America v. Harrison (S.D.Cal. 1952) 106 F. Supp. 419.)
Regarding right of one who causes the death of another to benefit from such death, the California Supreme Court pointed out, in footnote 10 that there were cases in at least two other jurisdictions that permitted the 'killer' to benefit from the victim's death if there was no intent to kill the victim.

See Legette v. Smith (1955) 226 S.C. 403 [85 S.E.2d 576], and In re Wolf (1914) 88 Misc. 433 [150 N.Y.S. 738], both involving a jilted hubby who unlawfully, but accidentally, shot and killed his cheating wife when, in fact, he was really trying to blow away his wife's lover:
  • In both cases, the husband, while attempting to shoot his wife's lover, unintentionally shot her as she intervened. Both courts, applying equitable principles, permitted the husband to succeed to his wife's estateslayer statute

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