Woman's body was found in a shallow grave after ex's hire-to-kill plot

Inside the chilling case of Tahereh Ghassemi who was drugged, shot dead, then buried in a shallow grave – sparking desperate hunt for her killers that unearthed $10,000 murder-for-hire plot masterminded by her ex-HUSBAND

  • Tahereh Ghassemi vanished from her home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2015
  • Her body was soon discovered wrapped in a comforter and buried in the woods
  • It later transpired her ex-husband had hired hitmen to murder the mom-of-one

A popular true crime series is set to unravel the chilling case of a woman who was drugged, abducted and shot by three hitmen hired by her ex-husband as part of a $10,000 murder-for-hire plot.

Tahereh Ghassemi, originally from Iran, vanished from her home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which she shared with adult son Hamed, in 2015.

She had finalized her divorce just three months before in a settlement that saw her awarded $1 million in cash as well as two residential properties.

Her body would later be discovered wrapped in a comforter and buried in a shallow grave in the woods before it transpired that ex-husband Hamid had hired three men to murder the doting mom.

Here, FEMAIL has laid bare the sordid details as an episode of NBC’s Dateline – titled ‘The Ultimate Betrayal’ – explores the case.

Tahereh Ghassemi, originally from Iran, was drugged, abducted and shot by three hitmen hired by her ex-husband (pictured together) as part of a $10,000 murder-for-hire plot.

The mom-of-one vanished from her home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which she shared with adult son Hamed, in 2015

The shocking events began on the evening of April 11, 2015 when Tahereh’s son Hamed, 38, came home after an impromptu dinner and quickly noted that ‘something didn’t seem right.’

His mother’s car was not in the driveway and a pot of rice had been left burning on the stove – with no sign of his mom.

Hamed said he tried calling her phone but that it was off, adding: ‘I went through the house and everything was where it was supposed to be except for my bed cover… It was missing.’

But Tahereh, who had dreams of one day opening her own bakery, would often stay over at a girlfriend’s house and so he was not initially worried.

The next morning he woke up and noticed her purse was still in the house before starting to make enquires.

Hamed called her work who said that they had seen Tahereh, as he added: ‘I’m thinking she’s fine, she’s just mad because I didn’t come home last night on time so she’s not answering me.’

But he said that panic truly began to set in after she failed to return home that evening.

He drove to the Walmart where his mom worked at 5.45am and asked to check the schedule. 

She had finalized her divorce just three months before in a settlement that saw her awarded $1 million in cash as well as two residential properties

Hamed said he tried calling her phone but that it was off, adding: ‘I went through the house and everything was where it was supposed to be except for my bed cover… It was missing’

His mother’s car was not in the driveway and a pot of rice had been left burning on the stove – with no sign of his mom

Shockingly, he was then told by Tahereh’s manager that she had not actually been at work the day before as previously stated. 

Hamed immediately contacted the police who launched an investigation and stumbled across some early leads.

Tahereh’s blue Jaguar had already been discovered abandoned in an industrial part of town – about six miles from her home – having been torched.

Suspicion fell quickly on Hamed because the relationship he had with his mother had been strained.

Police discovered text messages on his phone sent in the days before Tahereh’s disappearance that read ‘leave me the f*** alone’ as he threatened to move out.

He believed his mother had been smothering him, adding: ‘It was just a constant fight.’

It also emerged that he had initially lied to officers about his movements after he first came home and discovered his mom was missing.

He had claimed that he had gone home and stayed, but he had in fact headed back out.

Asked why he lied to police, Hamed said: ‘I didn’t want my mom to find out that I went back out and be more upset that I went out when I knew that she wasn’t home.’

Tahereh’s blue Jaguar had already been discovered abandoned in an industrial part of town – about six miles from her home – having been torched

Police entered the woods and stumbled across a trail of polyester stuffing as alarm bells rang that it could have been from Hamed’s missing comforter

Suspicion fell quickly on Hamed because the relationship he had with his mother had been strained (pictured together)

There was also seemingly a financial gain as Tahereh had recently finalized her divorce from husband Hamid and, as a result, had come into a lot of money which would all go to Hamed in the event of her death.

But he claimed he was unaware: ‘You want to hear something funny? I didn’t know, I had no idea that I was going to be getting the money.

‘I didn’t know the laws here or how they worked.’

He said that being a person of interest was ‘nerve-wracking’ but added: ‘I knew I had nothing to do with it so I wasn’t at all worried about me. I was just worried about finding my mom.’

Hamed said that just two weeks earlier he had been jumped in a parking lot in an attack that left him needing 15 stitches to the back of the head.

Tahereh had also told friends that she felt like someone was following her and a picture began to build that someone had been targeting the family.

Police then turned their attention to Tahereh’s ex-husband who owned a car dealership in the area.

He had traveled from Iran to the US alone years earlier to study, and had left Tahereh and Hamed behind with the promise of bringing them over.

But he married an American woman and became a US citizen, keeping the developments secret from his family back in Iran.

He divorced that woman and started dating someone at work – the whole time making excuses about why he had not yet arranged for Tahereh to move to the US to be reunited.

Tahereh’s ex-husband had traveled from Iran to the US alone years earlier to study and had left her and Hamed behind with the promise of bringing them over

It later transpired that ex-husband Hamid had hired three men to murder the doting mom for $10,000

Tahereh finally moved out in 2005 but Hamid was married to yet another woman at the time.

Her friend said: ‘When she came, she found out that he was married and she was so heartbroken.’

Their divorce dragged on for nearly eight years with Hamid rejecting the proceedings by claiming the pair should not be considered married at all because they were first cousins, which is illegal under Louisiana law.

But the case was finally settled three months before Tahereh went missing with Hamid ordered to pay her $1 million in cash as well as handing over two residential properties.

He told investigators that he’d had nothing to do with his ex-wife since the settlement.

But, nonetheless, officers began digging into his recent movements and found an anomaly that showed he had received a phone call from Tyler Ashpaugh on the night Tahereh disappeared.

Ashpuagh, originally from Wisconsin, had been kicked out of school and living with relatives at the time – and investigators struggled to see why he would have been in contact with Hamid.

They then tried to build up a better picture of the connection and tracked Ashpaugh’s digital footprint, which revealed he had driven out to a forested area popular with deer hunters that evening.

Police entered the woods and stumbled across a trail of polyester stuffing as alarm bells rang that it could have been from Hamed’s missing comforter.

It lead them to a sunken grave where Tahereh’s body was found six weeks after first going missing. She had died from two gunshot wounds to her head.

Tyler Ashpaugh initially denied involvement but eventually admitted to kidnapping and shooting Tahereh along with two friends


Both Daniel Richter, 41, (left) and Skyler Williams, 25, (right) pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 30 years behind bars each

Ashpaugh initially denied involvement but eventually admitted to kidnapping and shooting Tahereh along with two friends Daniel Richter, 41, and Skyler Williams, 25, as part of a $10,000 murder-for-hire plot.

Richter had worked as a mechanic at Hamid’s car dealership and was reportedly keen to impress the powerful businessman.

Explaining how the killing unfolded, the trio donned masks and drove over to Tahereh’s home that night armed with a 22-calibre pistol and a syringe of insulin.

The assailants grabbed her, muffled her mouth and dragged her back into the kitchen where they injected her.

She fell unconscious before they wrapped her up in Hamed’s comforter and put her in the back of her own car.

The group reached the deserted destination and opened the boot to hear Tahereh regaining consciousness, which is when Ashpaugh pulled the trigger.

After burying the body, Hamid had then paid the trio before giving them a gas can and instructions to go and burn the vehicle.

Following the breakthrough, both Williams and Richter pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 30 years behind bars each. 

Ashpaugh was awaiting sentencing when he died in prison from a fentanyl overdose.

Hamid, who had also reportedly wanted his son dead, went on trial in August 2023 aged 72.

He was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life.

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