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Court nixes damages in murder-for-hire case


Chiman Rai


GEORGIA — The Georgia state Supreme Court has ruled that a man whose daughter was killed in a murder-for-hire plot arranged by her Indian American father-in-law can’t seek damages for pain and suffering undergone by the woman who was killed.

The case involves the killing of black American Sparkle Michelle Rai, 22, who was found strangled and stabbed in 2000, weeks after her marriage in March 2000 to Indian American Rajeev “Ricky” Rai.

The couple had a young daughter who was five months old at the time of the marriage.

The case went unsolved until 2006, when a tip implicated former university math professor and Mississippi businessman Chiman Rai, the groom’s father-in-law, who paid two men $10,000 to kill the woman because he felt the marriage brought shame to his family.

Rai was 69 when he was convicted on seven charges, including felony murder and burglary, and sentenced in July 2008 to life in prison without parole.

Rai, who came to the US from India in 1970, taught math at Alcorn State University in Mississippi for a decade before opening a supermarket and hotel in Mississippi, where Sparkle Rai worked.
Bennet Reid, Sparkle Rai’s father, with his wife later adopted the child, which was not contested by the child’s father.

After Chiman Rai was convicted and sentenced, Reid sued the convicted man for wrongful death on behalf of his grandchild and for his daughter’s pain and suffering.

The trial court awarded the grandchild $2.5 million for wrongful death and $100,000 to the estate for pain and suffering by the child’s mother.
The Georgia Court of Appeals split 6-6 on upholding the $100,000 award, questioning if the plot involved fraud, which had prevented the pain and suffering award from being subject to a time of limitation statute.

The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Sparkle Rai’s estate should not get the $100,000, saying that “the motivation to get away with the murder does not support a finding of fraudulent concealment or actual fraud in and of itself because a perpetrator’s desire not to be identified and caught is present in almost all crimes,”

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