HUSBAND ARRESTED IN MURDER OF IRAQI WOMAN IN EL CAJON

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By Miriam Raftery

November 9, 2012 (El Cajon)—Shaima Alawadi died a violent death in her El Cajon home, suffering multiple skull fractures.  A note found next to her body  told her to “go home” to her native Iraq, sparking fears in the community that the young Muslim mother of five may have been the victim of a hate crime.

But today, El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redman announced that the victim’s husband, Kassim Alhimidi, has been arrested and charged with her murder.

“After months of hard work, we determined this homicide as the result of domestic violence and not a hate crime,” Chief Redman told reporters this afternoon. He said police reached out to Muslim leaders in the community  and thanked community members for their patience.

Court records reveal that Alawadi, 32, sought a divorce from her husband and planned to move with her children to Texas, where her mother and siblings live.  Police found paperwork for the divorce in the victim’s Ford Explorer.  The couple’s daughter, Fatima Alhimidi, was also distressed over an impending arranged marriage.  Fatima has said that she heard her mother cry out and later heard glass breaking before finding her mother unconscious.  Fatima called 911; her mother was placed on life support at a local hospital and died several days later.

The investigation determined that Alhimidi was a person of interest after he returned from Iraq for the burial of his wife.  “He is the only suspect,” Chief Redman confirmed.

An autopsy report described the attack as “extremely violent” and suggested the injuries may have been caused by a tire iron.

At today’s press conference, Hamif Mohebi, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic relations, said he has “faith in our judicial system and we pray for justice.”  He told the press that “since the beginning our ultimate goal has been to get justice for Shaima Alawadi.”  That said, he emphasized that under the Constitution, every citizen is innocent until proven guilty.

“If it is domestic violence, I want to make sure that we clearly state that domestic violence has no place in our faith at all,” Mohebi emphasized.  Later he stated, “It is not part of any faith.”  He called domestic violence “a disease in the community that we all must face.”

 “I am proud of our community; they have been balanced and patient,” he said, adding that although the investigation took a long time, “We have to give professionals time to bring forward what evidence they can.” 

Her murder sparked outrage around the globe--and a show of solidarity among students in distant places. A website, One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi, urged students across America to don head scarves in solidarity. (photo, right)

Shaima Alawadi moved Michigan from Iraq in 1983 with her family as a refugee during the brutal crackdown by then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.  An article in Salon quotes a neighbor, Abbas Albeali, who said Alawadi’s father was tortured by Hussein’s regime and her uncle was hung during the uprising.  “She was a nice girl. She had no problems with anyone,” he stated.                                    

After surviving those traumas, according to the Detroit Free Press, she lived in Dearborn, Michigan until 1996, when she moved to the San Diego area.  She graduated from a local high school, married and had five children.

 Her husband reportedly has worked as a private contractor for the U.S. Army, serving as a cultural advisor training soldiers preparing for deployment in the Middle East, U-T San Diego reported.

El Cajon Police initially indicated that they were investigating her death as a possible hate crime, sparking concerns around the world. A Facebook page, One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi, urged students across America to don head scarves in solidarity with Alawadi.

But in the end, Alawadi lost her life in the very haven where she sought freedom from oppression—not due to a hate crime motivated by biogotry, according to police, but to violence at the hands of her own husband.

In a jailhouse interview with ECM news partner 10 news, Alhimidi asserts that "I'm not guilty." He notes that a neighbor reporting seeing a thinner, darker skinned man fleeing the area and insists that he would not harm his wife.

Police would not comment on the nature of the evidence against Alhimidi, 48, who  was arrested yesterday and booked into county jail last night.  He will face arraignment on Tuesday.m

The F.B.I. , San Diego Sheriff's Department, and San Diego District Attorney's office  also participated in this investigation, along with the El Cajon police.