Characteristics: Murder-for-hire - To
get out of the marriage without having to go through the cultural
stigma of a second divorce
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder:
December 18, 2011
Date of arrest:
January 21, 2012
Date of birth: 1966
Ayobi, 53 (her husband)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Sacramento County, California,
Sentenced to 26 years to life in prison on June 15, 2013
Woman sentenced in Sacramento for
arranged murder of husband
By Andy Furillo -
The Sacramento Bee
June 15, 2013
Shajia Ayobi apologized to her
four teenage children Friday for the murder of their father, but she
suggested she did what she did on their behalf, sort of as a
"Through all these years, I never
imagined we would see this kind of day," Ayobi said, just before she
received her 26-years-to-life sentence in the Dec. 18, 2011, shooting
death of her husband, Ghulam Ayobi.
"I always thought it would be the
opposite," she said. "I thought we'd come home and my kids would be in
a pool of blood. That was my nightmare for 24 hours a day."
There was evidence in Ayobi's
trial that her husband had exhibited abusive behavior toward the
children. But she based her trial defense on her own allegations that
it was she who suffered a torrent of physical and psychological abuse
at the hands of her husband, almost from the time of their 1993
She said it was she who suffered
from post-traumatic stress disorder, first from a domineering father
in her native Afghanistan, then from what she saw during the Soviet
invasion of her homeland in the early 1980s. A first arranged marriage
produced its share of domestic abuse, even before what she said she
endured in her relationship with Ghulam Ayobi, another war emigre from
Afghanistan. She said he flew into rages and would drag her by the
hair and pour toilet water over her head.
The PTSD defense was the third
offered by Ayobi, 47, in the killing of her husband. At first, she
lied to police, telling them carjackers shot and killed Ghulam, 53,
while they were driving on Interstate 80 near Northgate Boulevard, on
their way home to Foothill Farms from a dinner party in North Natomas.
When police found some problems
in her account, she made up another story that the CIA put a hit out
on her husband, who worked as a cultural sensitivity consultant for
the U.S. military.
It turned out, jurors decided in
their verdict, that she arranged the murder herself. Prosecutors have
since charged a gas station attendant she knew from her criminal
justice class at Kaplan College with participating in the killing.
They say she hired him to hide in the family van and to shoot and kill
Ghulam on the drive home from Natomas.
The alleged accomplice, Jake
Clark, 20, has been arrested and charged with murder. He is set for
his next Sacramento Superior Court date on Tuesday.
In her remarks Friday at her
sentencing, Shajia Ayobi, who had gone back to Afghanistan in 2007 or
2008 to work for a brief while as a linguist, said she loved her
husband "deeply." She said she showed it by never turning him in to
the police for abusing her.
Mostly, she spoke about her
children. The couple had three girls and a boy, ages 13 through 18,
according to her probation report. She said, "They have always been my
priority, no matter what."
She said, "I stayed on top of my
kids and made sure they did well in school" and that they attended
"I was that kind of mother,"
Ayobi told the court. "When they came home, the food was ready. It was
warm, their clothes clean. Everything. Their doctor, everything was up
Ayobi said "I repent every day of
my life" for the killing, but that "no matter where I am my kids will
be my priority. I will check on them on an everyday basis.
going to leave their sight. If I'm not there physically, emotionally
I'm going to be there with them."
All four of the children wrote
letters to the court in support of their mother. One of them asked,
"I'm just hoping you will send my mother to a good prison that will
treat her with care." The youngest daughter said "she was depressed
when Father died."
Another daughter wrote, "I still
believe my parents were good people and that they had just been
through a lot."
Ferishta Kulaly, a niece on
Ghulam Ayobi's side of the family, read a statement that her uncle
"loved life and shared his passion for life with others." Kulaly said,
"If Shajia truly believed her life with her husband was so bad, she
could have found another way to get out of this marriage. Divorce was
Deputy District Attorney Kevin
Greene argued at trial that Shajia killed Ghulam mainly to get out of
the marriage without having to go through the cultural stigma of a
second divorce. Greene also said she had a financial motive: She stood
to collect $285,000 on an insurance policy.
Judge Helena R. Gweon called the
case "tragic and unusual."
"Both Ghulam and Shajia were
complex people," the judge said from the bench. "They were well
educated, intelligent, hard-working and flawed deeply flawed. They
both had their demons and they both had experienced atrocities."
Gweon said Ghulam Ayobi "did many
good things," and although "he was not a perfect man
he did not
deserve to be killed.
Sacramento jury convicts wife
of first-degree murder
By Andy Furillo -
The Sacramento Bee
Thursday, May. 2, 2013
For nearly four days, Shajia
Ayobi's jury struggled with the meaning of "imminence" and whether it
applied to the danger she said she feared from her husband.
Wednesday afternoon, the panel
decided that even if she had been battered and abused by Ghulam Rabani
Ayobi, as she testified, he did not present an immediate threat to her
the night she either killed him or had him killed.
As a result, they convicted Ayobi,
46, of first-degree murder in the Dec. 18, 2011, shooting death of her
husband, who was 53.
"There was a lot of talk about
definitions," juror Reg Orbeta told reporters afterward.
Twice, the jury sent notes to
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Helena R. Gweon to ask for a further
meaning to the word "imminent." Twice, the judge told them to apply
their ordinary, everyday understanding.
Then, to the delight of Ghulam
Ayobi's side of the family, the jury worked its way through the law
and arrived at the conclusion that there was no clear and present
danger to Shajia Ayobi when her husband was shot in their car while he
laid his head back in rest.
"This is just one of the
judgments," Ghulam Ayobi's niece, Ferishta Kulaly, said of the jury's
verdict. "We believe that there is another judgment coming up, and
hopefully it will be more severe than this one."
The next judgment, Kulaly said,
will be rendered "when she exits this world, in her next life
has to face (God), too, and explain to him what she did to herself,
her family, the kids, the mom, the community for selfish reasons."
Gweon scheduled for June 14 her
application of the worldly consequences for the murder conviction.
Ayobi is facing a term of 25 years to life in prison.
Although the jury found Ayobi
guilty of murder, it did not have enough evidence to conclude that she
pulled the trigger in her husband's killing.
Deputy District Attorney Kevin
Greene argued that she was in fact the shooter. His office, however,
also has charged a second defendant in the case, a criminal justice
classmate of Ayobi's at Kaplan College identified as Jake Clark, 30.
In a jailhouse interview, Clark
said Ayobi offered him $500 to kill her husband. He said he refused
the offer and "flat-out" had nothing to do with the killing. Clark has
yet to enter a plea. His next court date is scheduled for May 17.
On Tuesday, the jury declared
itself at an impasse in its deliberations, but Gweon ordered the
members of the panel to resume their discussions. The jurors reached
their verdict about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Orbeta said the panel had been
split 10-2 in favor of conviction when the judge ordered jurors back
into the deliberation room.
Jury foreman Matthew Smalley said
it was "careful deliberation of the facts" that produced the eventual
Asked what evidence was most
decisive, Smalley said, "the testimony of the defendant."
Ayobi spent two days on the
stand, and although the panel mostly found her lacking in credibility,
Smalley said her admission that she contracted out the killing of her
husband severely damaged her cause.
Smalley said "we felt there was
compelling evidence" to corroborate Ayobi's testimony that she
suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Ayobi testified it
resulted from her early childhood experiences, from living in
Afghanistan during the Soviet war of the early 1980s and from the
domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of the husband she murdered.
"The PTSD was certainly a
factor," Smalley said. "But we weren't able to conclude it was the
Greene, the prosecutor, said in
his closing arguments that Ayobi stood to collect on a $285,000 life
insurance policy if her husband died. The deputy DA also said she had
other motives to murder, that she stood to gain her freedom from a bad
marriage without having to endure the cultural stigma of divorce.
Shajia Ayobi first reported to
police she and her husband were carjacked coming home from a dinner
party in Natomas and that Ghulam Ayobi was shot and killed by the
robber who had hidden in the back seat of their car.
She later changed her story to
say the CIA had her husband killed, before she finally admitted that
she did it but under the duress of PTSD.
Greene declined to comment on the
Defense attorney Pete Kmeto
argued for an acquittal on the basis of self-defense. Short of that,
he said jurors also had the option of convicting her of voluntary
manslaughter under a theory of imperfect self-defense.
"Obviously we're disappointed,"
Kmeto said in an interview after the verdict. "What this woman went
through in her life, and the domestic violence that occurred all
your sympathies go to her."
Kmeto said jurors told him that
the level of planning that went into the killing made it impossible
for them to find that she acted out of a fear of imminent harm.
"They struggled mightily," Kmeto
said of the jury. "It was a very emotional thing for them. They
couldn't go to sleep. They stayed up all night. They became tearful in
their deliberations. I'm convinced these people did the best they
could given the facts and the law."
Trial opens for Foothill Farms
woman accused of hiring husband's killer
By Kim Minugh -
The Sacramento Bee
Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013
Shajia Ayobi told Sacramento
police that her husband was killed by two mysterious carjackers who
hid in the couple's van as they dined at a friend's house and opened
fire after the couple began their drive home.
When police didn't buy that
story, she tried another: That it was a CIA operative who, unable to
persuade Ayobi to kill her husband, hid in the van and did the job
Neither of those explanations
panned out as detectives investigated the Dec. 18, 2011, shooting of
Ghulam Ayobi, and his 46-year-old wife now stands accused of
In opening statements to
Sacramento County jurors Monday morning, Deputy District Attorney
Kevin Greene and veteran defense attorney Peter Kmeto appeared to
agree that Shajia Ayobi, unhappy in her marriage, paid a classmate to
end it for her.
But the attorneys differed
dramatically on the woman's culpability. Greene argued that Shajia
Ayobi's plot and elaborate cover-up point to premeditation and
Ayobi "did not want to be married
to Ghulam anymore, so she comes up with a plot to kill him," Greene
said. "She comes up with a web of lies to cover up the plot."
As a result of her scheme, Ghulam
Ayobi, an Afghan native who taught cultural norms to U.S. troops on
their way to his native country, ended up with three bullets in his
head at the age of 53, Greene said.
The shooting erupted as Shajia
Ayobi drove the couple's Kia Sedona minivan from a Natomas home, where
they had dined with friends, to their own Foothill Farms residence.
After the shooting, Greene said, Shajia Ayobi first called her friend
"the crying, fake; the hysteria, fake" and then 911 "again,
crying, fake; again, hysteria, fake."
She continued the act by sobbing
and banging on the hood when police met her on Norwood Avenue after
she steered the van off Interstate 80, he said. She then began to spin
her "web of lies," Greene said, one of many times he repeated the
Kmeto instead attributed the
killing to years of abuse and suggested it could be viewed as
He acknowledged Shajia Ayobi's
two "partially false" statements to police. But inject one character
into the story suspected gunman Jake Clark, whose name surfaced
publicly for the first time Monday and suddenly "a lot of it is
true," Kmeto said.
Kmeto described the Ayobis as
"broken" people, whose demise came as the result of suffering in their
As a soldier there, Ghulam Ayobi
was taken hostage by Soviet forces and tortured. Kmeto said Ayobi
"came out a different man," one who was paranoid, bipolar and violent.
Before her marriage to Ghulam was
arranged, Shajia Ayobi and her family had been brutalized by soldiers.
He said his client suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a
result of the countless atrocities she suffered and witnessed.
Kmeto argued that as Ghulam's
wife, Shajia Ayobi and the couple's three children endured violent
outbursts and threats of death. She kept it secret, her attorney said,
because of cultural pressures.
Her mounting fear drove her to
pay Clark, a classmate in Shajia Ayobi's criminal justice program at
Kaplan College, $5,000 to kill him, Kmeto argued.
"Was she making this stuff up or
did she honestly
believe she and her children were in imminent
danger?" Kmeto asked. "It's a tragic case. The real issue is not who
did it but what was in Shajia Ayobi's mind when it happened."
Kmeto indicated that Clark, 21,
will testify. Sacramento police arrested Clark in connection with the
case last month; he has been charged with one count of murder in a
separate criminal filing. He is scheduled to appear for a hearing in
his case Friday.
Family 'distraught' over
arrest of wife in I-80 shooting death of husband
By Kim Minugh and Bill Lindelof
- The Sacramento Bee
January 20, 2012
In a dramatic turn of events,
Sacramento police have arrested the wife of murdered Afghan war
veteran Ghulam Ayobi ,who was found shot last month in his minivan on
Shajia Ayobi, 45, was booked into
Sacramento County Jail at 10:50 p.m. Thursday after questioning by
Police said her statements just
didn't add up. They now suspect she played a role in the shooting;
however, they are not sure whether she fabricated her previous story
about a carjacking or whether there were other suspects involved, said
police Sgt. Andrew Pettit.
The couple's nephew, Munir Safi,
issued this statement today: "Our family is incredibly distraught by
this awful turn of events. We are withholding judgment until all facts
are known and the police complete their investigation."
Police were called at 12:04 a.m.
Dec. 18 to a report of a man shot on eastbound I-80 at Norwood Avenue.
When they arrived, police found Ghulam Ayobi suffering from a gunshot
to his upper body.
He later died at the hospital.
Without a motive, police said only that they believed that Ayobi and
his wife, who was with him but not injured, were targeted at random.
The information at the time
indicated that the couple had left the home of a family friend in the
area of Torland Street and San Juan Road in Natomas' Gateway West
Safi previously told The Bee that
his uncle sat down in the passenger seat in the couple's minivan,
parked in the friends' driveway, and apparently became aware of two
people hiding in the back seat.
Under duress, the nephew said,
Ayobi ordered his wife to drive, not look back and not to ask
Shajia Ayobi was said to have
followed directions and never got a good look at any assailants. The
nephew said that Shajia told relatives and police the unknown suspects
An altercation broke out as the
minivan traveled eastbound on I-80. A shot broke out, according to the
nephew, killing his uncle.
The suspects ordered Shajia to
pull over on eastbound Interstate 80, east of Northgate Boulevard, the
nephew said. After they fled, she pulled out her cell phone and called
police, who told her to meet them at the Norwood Avenue offramp.
On Thursday, detectives
re-interviewed Shajia Ayobi. Police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Pettit said
that detectives had wanted to speak with her for some time.
"She was one of the people we
wanted to re-interview," said Pettit. "We were finally able to get a
hold of her. "
Detectives brought her into the
station Thursday afternoon, speaking with her into the evening. This
morning a press release announced her arrest.
"Based on her interview and
inconsistent statements, things just didn't match up," said Pettit.
"In these types of investigations, our detectives are very keen on
details. Some of those details were not lining up with the evidence we
Pettit said Shajia Ayobi made
incriminating statements, but he was not able to elaborate.
No motive has been established
for the killing of Ghulam Ayobi, a former Afghan soldier who had also
served as a cultural adviser to U.S. troops headed for war in
Wife Arrested In December
Murder Of Sacramento Man
January 20, 2008
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) The wife of
a man shot to death back in December has now been arrested in
connection with his death, according to Sacramento Police.
Officers arrested 45-year-old
Shajia Ayobi on Thursday for the murder of her husband, Ghulam Ayobi.
Ghulam died Dec. 18 in what was
originally reported as a fatal carjacking along Interstate 80 at
Shajia originally told police
that she and her husband had just left a family gathering and were
driving home in their minivan. She said when they got on Interstate
80, two people who had been hidden in their van appeared and demanded
She said a scuffle broke out and
Ghulam was shot dead.
However, police re-interviewed
Shajia about the case and she was arrested based on incriminating
Our family is incredibly
distraught by this awful turn of events, said family spokesman Munir
Safi, the victims newphew. We are withholding judgment until all
facts are known and the police complete their investigation.
shajia Ayobi is being held in the
Sacramento County Main Jail on a murder charge and is ineligible for
Shajia Ayobi weeps as she is sentenced in Sacramento Superior Court
to 26 years to life in prison for the 2011 murder of her husband,
(Randall Benton - The Sacramento Bee)