OAKLAND — Three years after they were arrested and charged with carrying out a murder plot motivated by $800,000 worth of insurance policies, a Bay Area man and woman are in front of an Alameda County jury.
Maria Moore, 53, and Marvel Salvant, 49, are on trial facing charges that they murdered Dominic Sarkar, 56, a Fremont man and executive chef who was listed as Moore’s domestic partner, despite her allegedly telling police she and him had an “occasional” relationship. Prosecutors claim Moore hired Salvant as a hitman and wired him $500 after the October 2018 homicide.
During opening statements on Monday, the defense attacked the Fremont police investigation and predicted that the prosecution’s case would unravel during the trial, which is expected to span several weeks.
Deputy district attorney Alex Hernandez went through the evidence he expects will prove both defendants’ roles in the crime. He said in the two years leading up to Sarkar’s killing, Moore purchased two life insurance policies for $500,000 and $300,000. He also said surveillance footage of the area shows a car similar to Salvant’s circling and parking near the crime scene, and added that the two were observed meeting after the time of the homicide.
Authorities also wiretapped Salvant’s phone, conducted extensive surveillance on him, and said that Salvant confessed in a conversation recorded by authorities.
“I’m an evil person … I committed a cardinal sin … I already did it. So, ain’t no turning back from here,” Salvant allegedly told one person.
Deputy public defender Christina Moore, who represents Salvant, said authorities had a much better suspect whom they completely ignored. He matched a description provided by an eyewitness and was found with gunshot residue, yet investigators never honed in on him the way they did with her client, Moore said.
“With everything I just told you you may be wondering how Marvel Savant even became a suspect,” Moore said. With regards to the alleged confession, Moore said prosecutors simply “cherry picked” pieces from an extensive wiretap to make her client look as guilty as possible.
During his brief opening statement, Moore’s attorney, Darryl Stallworth, simply encouraged jurors to keep an open mind and consider all the evidence.
“Prepare yourself for a lot of information, prepare yourself to be patient,” he said. “I submit to you, when you get to the end of the case, you’re going to find yourself with a lot of questions.”
Sarkar, an executive chef at the Passage to India restaurant in Mountain View, was found shot multiple times at 12:30 a.m. Oct. 8, 2018 on his bed at home, in the 43000 block of Charleston Way.