Husband ordered to trial in Iraqi-American’s death
EL CAJON, California (AP) — A California judge on Friday ordered an Iraqi immigrant to stand trial in the killing of his wife, whose fatal beating prompted international condemnation because it originally appeared to be a hate crime.
Kassim Alhimidi’s lawyer had urged the court to let his client go, saying there is no forensic evidence linking him to the death of 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi.
Attorney Richard Berkon Jr. noted no blood or glass was found on Alhimidi’s body or clothing. He said his client does not speak English, raising doubts he was capable of staging the killing as a hate crime by planting the note found in the next room that read: “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”
Alhimidi has pleaded not guilty to murder. He also has cooperated with police throughout the investigation, even voluntarily returning from Iraq after burying his wife in their homeland.
“It doesn’t make sense, your honor,” Berkon told Lewis. “The real killer is still out there.”
The mother of five, who immigrated to the United States in 1994 to flee her country’s violence, was found by her eldest daughter in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. She had multiple skull fractures and died two days later.
Berkon questioned why Alhimidi would choose to kill his wife when their daughter was upstairs, sleeping.
Alhimidi’s daughter, identified only as Fatima, testified that her father could not accept that his wife wanted to get divorced and move to Texas, where her family members lived.
The teen said her parents had loud arguments but she never saw her father strike anyone.
She said her father told her about a month after the killing that he had thrown out his wife’s shoes and another unidentified object of hers because he feared police would “suspect it was him.”
Fatima also told the court her younger sister had found a note a week before the killing outside their home’s front door with the same wording as the menacing note found the day of her mother’s attack. She said the handwriting was the same, but the ink was a different color.
Police said lab tests determined the note they found the day of the killing was a photocopy. And the FBI ruled the death was not a hate crime.
The trial was set for Aug. 8.
The judge said the most persuasive evidence was street-camera footage that indicates Alhimidi might have driven a short distance from home on March 21, 2012, and parked his car — contradicting his story to investigators that he had gone for a drive to relax.
“It appears to be a lie,” Lewis said in explaining his ruling.
The footage shows a person getting out of a parked red car resembling Alhimidi’s vehicle around the corner from the home and then walking back to it an hour later.
Lewis also cited a deadly weapon charge against Alhimidi as reason to keep him in custody.