In opening arguments at 67-year-old Pooroushasb "Peter" Parineh's trial Thursday, his defense attorney said wife and mother Parima Parineh was suffering deep depression and intense anxiety over her family's declining real estate fortune in 2010.
"Everything was falling apart and she wanted to give (her children) something," said defense attorney Dek Ketchum. "This is what she gave them."
Ketchum played for jurors in San Mateo County Superior Court the 911 call for help his sobbing, hysterical client placed April 13, 2010, the day his wife died from a gunshot wound to the head in their Woodside mansion -- it was not, he said, the typical response of a murderer.
Yet from the start, San Mateo County Sheriff's detectives believed the case was murder, Ketchum argued. His wife had two gunshot wounds in her head and a total of four shots had been fired, Deputy District Attorney Jeff Finigan told jurors. The blood splatters, the way the .380 caliber pistol landed on the bed, and the angle of the shots all made it look staged, he said.
Later, investigators found what they believed were good reasons for murder. Peter Parineh had built what he called a real estate empire worth up to $70 million in 2006, Ketchum said, but bad investments and the real estate crash left him facing financial ruin.
His properties were in foreclosure, he had no cash and the bank was threatening to shut down the financing for the premiums on his wife's $30 million life insurance policy. In this crisis, he made the decision to shoot his wife to death and collect the money, Finigan said.
But Ketchum noted the beneficiary of that policy was a trust under control of the couple's three adult children: sons, Austiag Hormoz Parineh and Khashayar Parineh as well as daughter Austiaj Parineh, who didn't have a good relationship with their father. Ketchum said their father thought the kids, two of whom were living at home at the time of their mother's death, had things too easy. He was colder and tougher on the kids than their mother, a painter and homemaker.
After their mother's death, the relationship got worse, with the daughter telling police her father had confessed to shooting their mother to finish a failed suicide attempt. They have since filed lawsuits against their father. All three children were in court Thursday, frequently shielding their eyes from the bloody crime scene photos projected for jurors. The siblings declined to comment on the case outside court.
Whether or not Parima Parineh wanted to kill herself will be a key issue in the trial. On March 16, 2010, about a month before her death, she was rushed to the hospital after taking an overdose of pills in her home.
At Stanford Hospital she told mental health workers she had attempted suicide due to the family's dire financial situation and in an effort to get the life insurance money, Ketchum said. Her policy, taken out in 2007, would pay out in the event of suicide, as long as her death came two years after it was issued.
But the prosecutor told jurors the mother had rebounded after her brush with self-inflicted death. She even said she regretted the attempt.
"She had a positive albeit guarded outlook on life," said Finigan.
The prosecution case is expected to begin Friday morning and the case is expected to last several weeks. Parineh is being held without bail.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.