Prosecutors successfully pushed for higher bail Tuesday for a man accused of plotting with a woman to murder his wife, saying the pair were a significant flight risk who had spoken of "pulling a Houdini" to escape authorities.
Kashif Parvaiz, originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., appeared in state superior court in Morristown, N.J., where his bail was increased from $1 million to $3 million cash.
His alleged co-conspirator, Antoinette Stephen of Billerica, Mass., appeared separately in the same courtroom, and her bail remained at $5 million cash.
Stephen and Parvaiz, both 26, face charges of murder, conspiracy and weapons offenses in the shooting death of Parvaiz's wife, Nazish Noorani.
The 27-year-old Noorani, originally from Karachi, Pakistan, was fatally shot Aug. 16 while she and Parvaiz pushed their son's stroller near Noorani's family home in Boonton, a New Jersey suburb about 30 miles from Manhattan that is home to a large Pakistani-American population.
Prosecutors have not said whether Stephen and Parvaiz were romantically involved or revealed who fired the shots that killed Noorani, but they have said Stephen was at the scene of the shooting. Investigators wrote in the arrest affidavit that Parvaiz and Noorani had a turbulent relationship. Authorities said Parvaiz met Stephen in Brooklyn and the two discussed killing Noorani.
Relatives and friends said the husband's name is spelled Pervaiz, but several online records and court documents show the similar spelling Parvaiz.
Parvaiz was also shot and suffered non-life-threatening wounds in the attack. He was brought into court Tuesday in a wheelchair with one arm in a sling, bowing his head as bail was discussed. One woman seated in the courtroom with members of his family covered her mouth when she saw him and held back sobs.
Parvaiz did not speak at the hearing, but prosecutors said he initially told police he and his family had been attacked by a group of men who called them terrorists. The child was unharmed.
Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi asked the judge to set Parvaiz's bail even higher, at $5 million cash, arguing the investigation had revealed that Parvaiz and Stephen had multiple sources of money, several addresses and extensive connections, making them a flight risk.
"The twisted tale that these two engaged in is more egregious and narcissistic than anything I've seen in my career," Bianchi said.
Bianchi said Stephen and Parvaiz exchanged text messages shortly before Noorani's killing in which they spoke of the "Houdini act" they were about to engage in to evade authorities.
Parvaiz' attorney, Mitchell Ansell, said his client vigorously denied the charges, and planned to plead not guilty. He said many erroneous stories had been told about his client.
"My client did not kill his wife," Ansell said. "We ask that you please withhold judgment of my client until all the facts are known in this case."
Attorney Dolores Mann, a court-appointed public defender for Stephen, said she had been assigned the case only moments before the Tuesday appearance, and was not in a position to comment until she'd had a chance to meet with her client. Stephen was arrested in Massachusetts and extradited to New Jersey on Monday.
In arguing for higher bail, Bianchi said Parvaiz had told several lies, including that he graduated from Columbia University and was studying for a degree at Harvard University. Neither school had records of his attendance.
Bianchi also cited an investigation into Parvaiz's alleged involvement with a real estate transaction in Queens in which he stood to gain more than $2.5 million after an elderly man sold him a stake in the deal for $10.
A story first reported in The New York Post alleged that Parvaiz befriended 74-year-old Martin Ragusa, a wealthy Manhattan heir he had reportedly met as a teenager doing construction work on Ragusa's Manhattan apartment.
The two reportedly grew close over the years, and Ragusa recently sold his stake in a Queens apartment building to Parvaiz for $10. Several published reports say a contract to sell the property for $9 million was recently signed, and Parvaiz stood to gain more than $2.5 million from his share of the sale.
Parvaiz's attorney declined to discuss the allegations.
Neither defendant spoke during their appearances; both are due back in court Friday.