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Contract Killings


Monday, 15 September 2008

Miguel Angel Servando opted for guaranteed life in prison and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

Facing a possible death penalty if convicted, one of two men charged in the alleged murder-for-hire of an elderly Troy couple opted for guaranteed life in prison and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Miguel Angel Servando agreed to the plea just before a hearing and trial was to begin. Attorneys said Servando hoped to avoid a possible death sentence in the March 11 contract killings of Brij Chhabra, 65, and his wife, Aasha, 56, in their home. A co-defendant, Nelson Mendoza, who Servando said Monday drove him to Michigan, awaits state charges. Federal murder-for-hire charges in Detroit are pending against two Texans, Narayan Thadani, 60, of Richmond and Doug Tabor, 40, of Houston. A condition of Servando's plea is that he cooperates in all related cases "It's very unusual for someone to plead guilty to life in prison without chance of parole, but it is an effort to avoid the death penalty," assistant Oakland County prosecutor Ken Frazee said later outside the courtroom. "He (Servando) knows a lot about these other men and the roles they played in the case."
The victims were killed because Aasha Chhabra had sought a $2 million inheritance embezzled by Thadani, investigators said. She and Thadani had been childhood friends in their native India and had both moved to the U.S. Several relatives and friends attempted to comfort the victims' daughter, Suman, in the courtroom. As Servando answered questions about what he did on March 11, she buried her face in her hands, knelt forward and sobbed. The family declined to be interviewed. Servando, 41, of Katy, Texas, and Mendoza, 37, of Houston were pulled over on Interstate 94 by Taylor Police for illegal dark tinted windows and rapid lane changes, police said.
When Mendoza consented to a search of the car -- his attorney, Howard Arnkoff, said Mendoza doesn't understand English and could never have given lawful consent -- police said they found a handgun under the passenger seat, a map to the Chhabra home, bloodstained documents and gloves, and Aasha Chhabra's passport.
Troy Police were contacted and went to the Chhabras' home, where officers found the couple found dead from gunshot wounds. Thadani asked his landscaper, Tabor, to find someone willing to kill for pay, and Tabor recruited Servando and Mendoza, both El Salvadoran nationals, according to court documents. Thadani and Tabor, both arrested by the FBI in Texas, are jailed without bond and scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court Sept. 25. Both could receive the death penalty if convicted. In a separate hearing Monday, Mendoza was advised of Servando's plea and that federal charges are pending. Servando will be sentenced on Oct. 24 before Judge Rae Lee Chabot. Although Michigan forbids the death penalty, under federal law, a person can be sentenced to death for certain crimes once transferred to the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

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