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Police: Family Hires Hitman After Arranged Marriage Goes Awry

February 12, 1988

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A couple whose daughter spurned an arranged marriage and eloped with her cousin allegedly tried to hire a hitman to kill their son-in-law, his sister and mother and send pieces of the bodies to Jordan, authorities said Friday.

Dr. Saud Tarawneh, 46, a gynecologist who became a U.S. citizen in 1980, and his wife, Ghada, 44, were arrested Thursday on a Broward County warrant in Toledo, Ohio, where they have lived for several years. Bond for them was set Friday at $1.2 million.

According to Mike Breece, an investigator with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the couple allegedly tried to arrange the killings to erase the embarrassment from Rhana Tarawneh’s elopement with her Syrian cousin in 1984.

″This would not only help them save face, but elevate the standing of the family in the tribe to an even higher level than it was before the daughter ran away,″ Breece said.

The lovers fled from Jordan and eventually moved to Broward County.

Police were contacted by a private investigator the Tarawnehs allegedly asked either to commit the murders himself or arrange for a hitman.

Tarawneh and his wife were each charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and three counts of solicitation to commit first- degree murder.

The alleged intended targets were their unwanted son-in-law, Mouataz Abdulsamad, 29; his younger sister, Azza; and his mother, Najwa, 45.

When Rhana first fled Jordan with her new husband, the family wanted to send her back and sell her into a prostitution ring, authorities said.

But as the embarrassment to the family grew deeper, the parents allegedly tried to set up the killings of her new husband and his relatives.

The plans included instructions for the killer to to hang all three people, take photographs of the bodies, then cut the mother’s tongue out and sexually mutilate the husband and his sister, Breece said. Instructions were also included on packaging the body parts in formaldehyde for shipment to Jordan.

Breece would not disclose the amount the couple allegedly agreed to pay for the murders.

An investigator the parents allegedly tried to hire in early January told authorities about the plot, and agreed to cooperate with the state in its criminal investigation, Breece said.

After getting court permission for wiretaps, agents taped phone conversations between the investigator and the family, Breece said.

A state agent and the investigator, who acted as a middle man for a non- existent hitman, met with the doctor and his wife in Detroit on Feb. 2, Breece said.

On Wednesday, the father ″was told the the murders had been committed and to send his money,″ Breece said. ″Whether or not he did (send the money), I don’t know.″

Toledo Municipal Court Judge Robert Penn continued the case until Saturday because the Tarawneh’s attorney, Jeffrey Goldstein, was out of town. The couple faces extradition to Florida, Breece said.

Update hourly