Crime - Sacto 911

Jury convicts Jake Clark in murder-for-hire

Jurors in two trials convicted two people in a woman’s paid hit to kill her husband, but neither of those juries established who pulled the trigger in the Dec. 18, 2011, shooting death of Ghulam Ayobi.

On Tuesday, accused gunman Jake Clark’s jury found him guilty of murder in the killing of the Afghan émigré whose wife, Shajia Ayobi, claimed he abused her and admitted to putting out the $10,000 contract to have her husband killed.

Sacramento prosecutors argued in Shajia Ayobi’s case that she was the shooter. In Clark’s trial, they identified him as the gunman.

Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard, supervisor of the homicide unit, said that new evidence developed after Shajia Ayobi’s trial, which ended in a first-degree murder conviction on May 1, 2013, more firmly established Clark as the recipient of the wife’s cash and as the shooter of Ghulam Ayobi, 53, a cultural sensitivity consultant for the United States military.

The most significant evidence, Norgaard said, was the gunshot residue testing that wasn’t completed until after the conclusion of the first trial.

“She had it on her hands, and we believe the shooter wore gloves,” Norgaard said.

Additional investigation after the Shajia Ayobi trial also turned up new witness statements pointing to Clark and his knowledge of the wife’s plan. Detectives also later learned that Clark had come into a large sum of money after the shooting, Norgaard said.

“Sometimes, given the nature of the evidence in a trial, it is difficult to determine who the actual shooter was,” Norgaard said. “But both juries immediately agreed both defendants were guilty of first-degree murder, and both unanimously agreed a firearm was used, and the verdicts and findings indicate they had a difficult time determining exactly who the shooter was.”

Even though Clark’s jury didn’t sustain the allegation that he was the shooter, it still convicted him of murder on one of the theories offered by Deputy District Attorney Kevin Greene in his closing argument – that the defendant either conspired with Shajia Ayobi or aided and abetted her by providing the gun that was used to kill her husband.

Shajia Ayobi at first told police her husband was shot to death by a carjacker who must have been hiding in the back of their van when they were leaving a dinner party in North Natomas.

She pulled off Interstate 80 at Norwood Avenue to call 911. Clark testified at his trial last week that Shajia Ayobi met him at an apartment complex on San Juan Road between North Natomas and Norwood and gave him the gun. He said he threw it away in a trash can, and investigators later found the gun near the spot where he said he had met Ayobi.

It took the jury a little more than three hours of deliberations over two days, however, to find Clark guilty. Juror Leonard Albalos said he “didn’t have much faith” in Clark’s testimony, presented to the jury over two days last week.

“I thought he was fabricating a lot,” Albalos said about Clark’s testimony that Shajia Ayobi offered the defendant the $10,000 to kill her husband, but that he turned it down.

Clark’s attorney, Russell W. Miller, said in an interview that despite the verdict, “It’s still the position of the defense that Mrs. Ayobi was the actual perpetrator of the crime and that she did it alone.”

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Greta Curtis Fall scheduled Clark’s sentencing for July 25. He is facing a term of at least 25 years to life. Shajia Ayobi was sentenced to a 26-to-life term last year.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee