PORTLAND (AP) – An insurance salesman accused of killing his girlfriend to collect on a life insurance policy he wrote went on trial Monday on a murder charge.

Santanu “Sam” Basu, 34, is accused of fatally shooting 29-year-old Azita Jamshab of Westbrook on March 6, 2002. Jamshab’s body was found the following day near a gravel pit in Cumberland.

A jury was selected Friday in Cumberland County Superior Court. Testimony got under way following opening statements and is expected to continue through the week.

Police say Basu, an insurance salesman with offices in Brunswick and Portland, needed money to pay off debts, including $40,000 he owed to “bad people.”

Basu, who says he is innocent, told police that Jamshab canceled their date and that he was out with a friend at the time she was killed. Rather than support his alibi, however, that friend is expected to testify against Basu.

Basu’s attorney, Neale Duffett, would not comment about the case Friday.

An employee of the Scarborough hair salon where Jamshab worked quoted her as saying she had a date with her boyfriend, who was named Sam. Jamshab told the co-worker that Sam promised her that he had a surprise for her.

The co-worker described Sam as a married insurance agent who had recently sold Jamshab a policy in which he was named as the beneficiary.

Basu told police that he was supposed to have a date with Jamshab the night she disappeared, but she had canceled it. He said he visited her for about 20 minutes and then went out with his friend, Dexter Flemming.

Flemming told police that Basu had called him on March 6 and asked if he would vouch for an alibi. Thinking Basu needed to cover up an extramarital affair, Flemming said he agreed.

But Flemming told police that Basu had something else in mind. Flemming said they met at Basu’s office on March 8, and Basu told him that he had killed someone because he was in debt to “bad people” for $40,000.

Flemming said Basu told him he had sold an insurance policy to a female friend that would pay $50,000 to him, and send $50,000 to her family in Iran.

Flemming said Basu said he took the woman out for a drive and shot her four times, including once in the back.

AP-ES-09-22-03 1209EDT

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