ATLANTA – A former math professor at a historically black university goes on trial Monday, charged with arranging the contract killing of his black daughter-in-law because she wasn't Indian.
As prosecutors prepare to try the death penalty case against Chiman Rai, their challenge will be to prove that Rai was so enraged over his son's marriage to a black woman that he paid $10,000 to have her killed.
Rai, a native of India, brought his family to the U.S. in 1970. He taught math at Alcorn State University in Mississippi, later ran a supermarket and then bought a hotel in Louisville, Ky. where he hired Sparkle Michelle Rai as a clerk. She fell in love with his son, Ricky, and the two were wed. Prosecutors say Chiman Rai paid two brothers $10,000 to kill his son's wife.
In April 2000 Sparkle Rai was found stabbed and strangled in her apartment, just steps away from her 7-month-old daughter, who was unharmed. Rai's defense attorney did not immediately return calls for comment Friday, but he has insisted in court that his client is innocent. At a bond hearing in 2006, defense attorney Mike McDaniel called Rai "as stable of a person as you're going to find."
The case went unsolved until two witnesses came forward in 2004 and identified Cleveland Clark as the killer. According to a 2006 indictment, Rai teamed up with Willie Fred Evans to serve as middlemen, and they soon passed the money to brothers Cleveland and Carl Clark.
Carl Clark drove the pair to Georgia from Mississippi and Cleveland Clark carried out the killing, prosecutors say.