By Miriam Raftery
April 19, 2014 (El Cajon ) – After a day and a half of deliberations, an El Cajon jury on Thursday found Iraqi immigrant Kassim Alhimidi guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Shaima Alawadi.
After the verdict was read, Alhimidi prayed and spoke in Arabic, professing, “I attest to God that I am not the killer. I’m innocent,” ECM news partner 10 News reports.
Family members showed outbursts of emotion, divided in their reactions. The couple’s oldest son, Mohammed, rose and shouted profanities, exclaiming, “My dad is innocent, he was tried unfairly,” before being restrained and escorted out of the courtroom. But Mohammed’s brother, Ali, reportedly said he supports the verdict.
The victim’s mother , Rehima Alhussanwi, told the press that she believes Alhimidi is guilty and “deserves worse” than the 26 years to life in prison sentence he now faces.
A threatening note was found at the family’s home previously and a copy of that note reading “This is my country. Go back to yours, you terrorist” was left beside Alawadi, who was found mortally wounded in her home on March 21, 2012.
The prosecution argued that Alhimidi struck her at least six times in the head with a heavy object, most likely a tire iron. No blood or forensic evidence was presented.
But Alawadi wanted a divorce and reportedly told family members she “couldn’t stand” her husband. There was no history of family violence presented in court.
Alawadi died several days later in a hospital without regaining consciousness. Alhimidi reportedly asked relatives what would happen if she were to awaken and accuse him of striking her. But he also reportedly asked doctors if they could transplant his brain to save her. When she was taken off life support, he reportedly asked for forgiveness, but the defense attorney said that is customary in his religion.
Alhimidi told police he was out driving when his wife was killed. A video reportedly showed a van that appeared to be his near the home around the time of the murder, with a person in dark clothing coming and going. After police altered a photo and date stamp to make it appear they had proof his vehicle was parked there, he reportedly said it was, though his lawyer argued that Alhimidi may have been confused about the timing due to the recent time change from Daylight Savings Time.
The couple’s daughter , Fatima, 17, told police on the day of the murder that she saw a “white guy” running away. Fatima was in the house when her mother was killed and said she heard a “squeal” followed by breaking glass. She was shown a lineup but did not identify the person.
The defense testified that Alhimidi would not have returned to the house to kill his wife, knowing his daughter had stayed home from school, sick.
Fatima had run away from home repeatedly and once jumped out of a moving car to escape her mother. She admitted that her parents were upset that she was resisting an arranged marriage with a Muslim man and that they disapproved of her romantic involvement with a Chaldean Christian man. But prosecutors insist that they had no reason to suspect Fatima of the killing. Fatima called 911 after finding her mother seriously injured.
Alhimidi traveled to Iraq after the murder for his wife’s burial and despite an offer of safe haven, he returned to the United States to allow justice to proceed.
In November 2012, police received a call from Fatima who told them, “He did it.” Alhimidi was later arrested for the murder, seven months after his wife's death.
During the trial, Alhimidi repeatedly broke down in tears, but the prosecution contended he was not sincere and stated that his late wife had referred to him as "the actor."
Alhimidi is scheduled for sentencing on May 15th. .