FREMONT (CBS SF) — Special circumstance charges have been filed against two suspects being held for the alleged murder-for-hire of a popular East Bay chef as he slept in his home last October, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said Maria Moore and Marvel Salvant were facing several charges “in a sophisticated murder-for-hire case” that resulted in the homicide of Fremont resident Dominic Sarkar.
The pair face special circumstance murder counts of murder for financial gain and murder by lying in wait. Conviction of either could result in a death sentence.
In an accompanying court filing, lead investigator Fremont police detective Brent Butcher said Sarkar was murdered to allow Moore to collect $800,000 from his life insurance policies.
Sankar, who worked at high-end restaurants in New Delhi, Dubai, Philadelphia and Orlando before coming to the Bay Area, was found shot several times in his bed on Oct. 8 while his housemates were left unharmed.
The owner of Passage to India, the Mountain View restaurant where Sarkar worked, told KPIX that Moore pretended to mourn Sarkar’s death — even inviting his family to stay with her during his funeral.
“I thought she was a very nice person, very nice,” said Passage to India owner Sushma Taneja. “She was crying a lot after he passed away, she used to cry a lot.”
Butcher said a witness described a suspect running from the home and fleeing the scene on a bike wearing a lighted headlamp. Investigators gathered surveillance video from various locations in the neighborhood and determined a Subaru Outback had been circling in the neighborhood at the time of the shooting.
The suspect on the bike jumped into the Subaru and it left the scene.
On Oct. 9, Moore came to the Fremont police department and spoke with investigators. She told them that she occasionally had sexual relations with Sarkar and was the beneficiary of his life insurance policies.
Investigators determined that Sarkar and Moore had purchased a $500,000 life insurance policy in April 2016. Sarkar’s three daughters in India were also listed as beneficiaries. In Sept. 2016, the policy was altered by Moore, eliminating the daughters as contingent beneficiaries.
In 2017, Sarkar added an additional $300,00 policy and again listed his daughters as contingent beneficiaries.
“The policy was later modified, under suspicious circumstances, to add Moore as the primary beneficiary and remove Sarkar’s daughters,” Butcher wrote in his report.
Investigators discovered that Moore had wired $500 to Salvant via Western Union on Sept. 19th. They obtained further warrants and used them to gather extensive cellphone records involving the pair.
Analysis of the cell phone records found that Salvant had been casing Sarkar’s home. He allegedly sent a text message to Moore stating “It’s a waiting game” and another that said: “I am set to do everything tonight.”
On Oct. 25, surveillance officers saw Moore and Salvant meeting at her home.
“On several occasions, Salvant told others that he would be coming into a large sum of money,” the report revealed.
The pair met several other times before they were arrested on Dec. 18.
Salvant’s mother told KPIX 5 that she believes her son is innocent.
Taneja said that, while she’s relieved about the arrests, she also can’t make sense of why Moore allegedly killed Sarkar. Taneja said Sarkar took care of Moore and Moore’s disabled son.
Taneja said she and Moore had many emotional conversations and she had no idea that she was speaking to the main suspect in Sarkar’s murder.
A judge postponed the hearing for the suspects’ case until January.
KPIX 5’s Maria Medina contributed to this report