Friday, 21 August 2009 00:00
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced Aug. 18 that accused killer Harpal Hira has been indicted by a grand jury on charges that he attempted to hire a hit man from his Nassau County jail cell to murder his sister-in-law, who Rice said is scheduled to testify in Hira’s upcoming murder trial.
Hira, 34, was arrested for the Aug. 2, 2008 murder of his 56-year-old stepmother Meena Kohli and the attempted murder of his wife, 24-year-old Ritika Hira, at the couple’s Hicksville home. According to the DA, Kohli was stabbed to death and Ritika sustained defensive stab wounds to her arms and hands. Also in the home at the time of the incident were the Hira’s two newborn twin boys, who were found by police officers to be unharmed, and Ritika’s sister, who witnessed portions of the attack and helped fend off Hira before he fled the scene. Ritika Hira’s sister then ran to a neighbor’s house to call police.
After a more than three-week manhunt following the murder, Hira, along with Parmjit Puar, 48, of South Ozone Park, were apprehended Aug. 27, 2008. Puar is charged with helping Hira elude authorities in the weeks following the killing.
As Hira’s trial date approached, Rice’s office and the Nassau County Police Department began receiving tips from individuals claiming to have knowledge of the defendant’s jailhouse attempts to hire a hit man to kill his sister-in-law, who is scheduled to testify as a witness during the trial. To break up the plot before it came to fruition, authorities enlisted the help of a jail informant whom Hira had approached earlier about the intended murder. The informant brokered a meeting between Hira and a hit man who was, in reality, an undercover officer.
According to Rice, Hira is heard on electronic surveillance giving the undercover officer personal background information on his sister-in-law, including information on her possible whereabouts. And, on June 10, the two men agreed that Hira would pay the “hit man” $10,000 in exchange for the murder.
In addition to the murder and attempted murder charges, the grand jury’s indictment against Hira now includes the charge of criminal solicitation – 2nd degree and conspiracy – 2nd degree. The new charge will be handled separate from the murder case and could land the defendant in prison for up to 25 years regardless of whether he’s convicted of the fatal knife attack.
Hira was arraigned on the recent charges before Nassau County Judge Meryl Berkowitz on Aug. 19. He is being held without bail at the Nassau County Correctional Facility.
“This is a dangerous, violent inmate who will do anything to improve his chances of beating this murder case,” said Rice. “Luckily we learned of the plot with enough time to keep the witness safe and to hold the defendant accountable for his sinister plan.”
Handling the case for the DA’s office is Deputy Bureau Chief Anne Donnelly of the DA’s Economic Crimes Bureau. Hira is being represented by Michael Dergarabedian, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.