Ghulam Ayobi

Jury begins deliberations in Ayobi murder trial; second suspect arrested

Published: Friday, Apr. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Jun. 14, 2013 - 5:26 pm

Money, freedom, a chance to escape from a horrible marriage without the cultural stigma of divorce – they were all reasons Shajia Ayobi wanted her husband dead, according to the prosecution.

"One simple act, and the world becomes hers," Deputy District Attorney Kevin Greene told a Sacramento Superior Court jury Thursday in the closing arguments to Ayobi's murder trial.

All that aside – and also in spite of previous lies Ayobi told authorities about her husband being killed in a carjacking, or by the CIA – defense attorney Peter Kmeto said his client still was a battered and beaten woman with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Her lifetime of abuse only got worse, the lawyer said, when she took up with Ghulam Rabani Ayobi.

If she killed him, it was in self-defense, Kmeto said – maybe imperfectly so, but self-defense nevertheless.

"Was there a danger? Oh yeah, there was," Kmeto said.

Judge Helena R. Gweon sent the jury out to begin deliberations just before noon Thursday, to decide whether Shajia Ayobi, now 46, murdered her husband. Ghulam Ayobi, 53, was shot and killed in their car as they drove home to Foothill Farms on Interstate 80 after a dinner party with another couple in Natomas.

A whole new angle to the Dec. 18, 2011, just-after-midnight killing came to light during the trial. It was the disclosure that a second suspect has been arrested. His name is Jake Clark, who gave his age in a jailhouse interview Thursday as 30, despite his booking sheet, which lists him as 20.

The criminal complaint filed by the District Attorney's Office charged Clark under the state's "10-20-Life" law as being the shooter in the Ghulam Ayobi killing. Kmeto agreed with that assessment. Greene said it was Shajia Ayobi who did the shooting.

"It's possible that there were two people there," Greene said. "She could have had help. Somebody could have given her the gun and that they each took turns shooting him. Possible? Yeah. But likely? Reasonable? No, it's not. Is it possible somebody else shot Ghulam Ayobi? Jake Clark? Is it possible? Sure. Is it reasonable? No."

Sitting Thursday in the downtown jail, Clark said Greene's identification of Shajia Ayobi as the shooter and the DA's Office filing that identifies him as the gunman "makes no sense." An employee at an Elk Grove gas station until his March 20 arrest, Clark said he met Shajia Ayobi in their criminal justice class at Kaplan College, a career, technical and vocational school on Watt Avenue.

Kmeto charged that Ayobi offered Clark $500 to kill her husband, which Clark said he turned down.

"Flat-out no," he said in the interview.

Clark said he told his Kaplan criminal justice instructor about Shajia Ayobi's offer, even before her husband was slain. Clark added that he cooperated with Sacramento County sheriff's detectives when they questioned him several times over the next year.

Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi said Thursday, "We've arrested Jake and we're going to prosecute him, too." Grippi declined to comment on the complaint that identified Clark as the shooter and Greene's statement in court that when it comes to Ghulam Ayobi's death, "She shot him."

Émigrés from Afghanistan, the Ayobi couple had suffered through more than two decades of nearly constant war by the time they both found work with United States authorities, after the American invasion of their homeland that was prompted by the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks.

Shajia Ayobi made an estimated $300,000 as a translator in Afghanistan, the attorneys said, while Ghulam Ayobi later worked for the U.S. Army as a cultural sensitivity consultant. Their arranged marriage had been marked by violence and distrust in Afghanistan, according to testimony at trial.

It continued to deteriorate when they came to the United States, the lawyers agreed. Ghulam beat Shajia and once took an ax to a computer when one of his sons played games on it all the time.

When his job at one time took him to Louisiana for a few months, Shajia found her life enjoyable at last, according to Greene. He said she then decided to kill him to maintain her freedom, collect on the insurance, and most importantly, free herself from a terrible marriage without having to go through the shame in her culture of what would have been her second divorce.

"The problem is solved if Ghulam is dead," the prosecutor said.

Greene did not dispute that Shajia Ayobi had a tough life, continuing through her failed marriage with Ghulam Ayobi.

"Did Ghulam have faults? Yes," Greene said. "But you don't get to put three bullets in his head while he's leaning back in a car."

Kmeto, the defense lawyer, said the strains of war produced the violence Shajia Ayobi endured first in her father's and then in her husband's households. Ghulam's continuation of her domestic misery pushed her in a direction that ordinary folks would never understand, he argued.

"There is no way for us to know what is in Shajia Ayobi's head," Kmeto said.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

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