REDWOOD CITY -- 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.
The defense didn't protest the defeat. Ketchum said he and his client were obviously disappointed, but the jury had done its job and he accepted their decision. The conviction is subject to an automatic appeal, Ketchum said.
"I think our case was based on reasonable doubt," he added. "The strength of our case was in the forensics."
While the jury grappled with the case, they ultimately concluded the physical proof could add up to only one thing: murder.
"It was overwhelming," said juror Vidur Sood, 47, of San Mateo.
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.
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.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.