Published in the Current and the American Journal
A Cumberland County Superior Court jury Tuesday afternoon found Santanu Basu of Standish guilty of murdering Azita Jamshab to get the proceeds of a $100,000 insurance policy.
In closing arguments Tuesday morning, the prosecution told jurors there is “overwhelming evidence” that Basu was guilty.
Basu was listed as the beneficiary on Jamshab’s life insurance policy, which he had sold to her. In addition to Jamshab’s blood in the car Basu rented that day, and a “to-do” list preparing for the murder in Basu’s handwriting, prosecutor Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese said Basu had confessed to the crime, in detail, to a friend who then told police elements of the crime that had not yet been discovered.
The defense countered that Basu and Jamshab had instead been kidnapped at gunpoint by Jamshab’s “jealous boyfriend,” Amhad “Khoji” Khojaspehzad, who then murdered Jamshab.
Basu’s actions after the killing, which the prosecution called incriminating, were instead because Basu was trying to protect his family from Khojaspehzad, defense attorney Neale Duffett told jurors.
Jamshab, who lived in Westbrook, was shot to death after stepping out of a rental car – similar to one Basu rented that day – in a gravel pit just over the Windham line in Cumberland March 6, 2002. Her body was found the following day by a Windham man who lived nearby.
Marchese said Basu was “deep in debt and going further,” with high credit card balances and his job in jeopardy.
When Jamshab came into Basu’s office in January 2002 to buy car and health insurance following her divorce, Basu saw his chance. He sold her life insurance and persuaded her to name him as the beneficiary, Marchese said.
“He had all the information he needed to make Azita’s parents the beneficiary but he didn’t because he didn’t want to, because then he wouldn’t get the money,” Marchese said.
Instead, he put himself on the policy and then began to plan Jamshab’s murder, she said. In late February 2002, Jamshab told Basu she was moving out of the area and wanted to cancel the policy.
“Within two weeks Azita is dead,” Marchese said.
After the murder, Basu confessed to a former Navy buddy, but pleaded with him not to tell the police about any of it, prosecutors said.
That friend, Dexter Flemming, told police intimate details of the crime before the medical examiner or police were able to uncover them. Later discoveries supported what Flemming said Basu had told him, Marchese told the jury.
Marchese also described the killing, saying Basu drove Jamshab to the gravel pit in a rental car and told Jamshab to close her eyes because he had a “big surprise” for her.
“She holds out her hand and he pulls out the gun and shoots her,” Marchese said. The first shot was in the hand and arm. Then Basu shot her twice in the chest, and she fell to the ground.
“For some inexplicable reason he needs that coup de grace shot and shoots her in the back,” Marchese said.
The defense story that the pair was kidnapped by Khojaspehzad was invented recently and first told to investigators when Basu took the stand last week, Marchese said.
Khojaspehzad was the secondary beneficiary of Jamshab’s insurance policy and would only get the money if Basu were dead or convicted of killing Jamshab.
Speaking for the defense, Duffett disputed each of Marchese’s claims, saying Basu was not in financial trouble, would not have killed Jamshab for any
money, rented a car to hide an affair from his wife and made the to-do list to plan a “romantic date.”
Duffett said Basu did not dispute Flemming’s testimony about the confession because Basu was trying to cover for Khojaspehzad, for fear his family would be hurt if the police investigated Khojaspehzad.
Duffett said Khojaspehzad was a “jealous lover” who murdered Jamshab in a “crime of passion,” because he feared Basu and Jamshab were having an affair.
Marchese dismissed that explanation as “nonsensical.”