Fatima Alhimidi acknowledged telling an uncle's then-girlfriend
that she hated her mother because the two had fought over her
romance with a local Chaldean Christian boy, a relationship that
would be taboo in many Muslim families.
But asked by defense attorney Richard Berkon if she had ever said
she wanted her mother dead, the 19-year-old Alhimidi said: "I don't
remember that. I don't think so."
The questions appeared to be part of a defense strategy to suggest
that the father, 49-year-old Kassim Alhimidi, may not have been the
only person with a possible motive for killing the stay-at-home
mother of five in her San Diego-area home.
When it was his turn to question Alhimidi, San Diego County Deputy
District Attorney Kurt Mechals asked her directly if she had
anything to do with the crime.
"Did you kill your mother? Did you tell your boyfriend Ron to do
it?" Mechals asked. Alhimidi responded: "No."
It was Fatima Alhimidi, then 17, who found her mother, Shaima
Alawadi, bloodied on the kitchen floor of the family home in the San
Diego suburb of El Cajon on March 21, 2012. Alawadi, 32, died
several days later.
Authorities initially probed the killing as a possible hate crime
because of a threatening note found at the scene. The U.S. State
Department expressed condolences for the woman's death and Iraqi
government officials attended her funeral in that country.
But in the days following the attack, a relative of Alawadi called
from Texas to say he suspected her husband or the daughter's
boyfriend, an investigator has testified. Divorce papers were found
in Alawadi's car.
Prosecutors ultimately accused the father of bludgeoning his wife to
death, possibly with a tire iron taken from one of the family's
cars. Defense lawyers counter that there is no forensic evidence
linking him to the crime.
[to top of second column]
The daughter's testimony has painted a picture of a family in
turmoil in the months before the killing, as arguments erupted over
whether she would wed a cousin in Iraq in an arranged marriage and
over her relationship with her boyfriend.
She has testified that conflict between her parents began during a
trip to Iraq in mid-2011, when her father began pressuring her to
marry the cousin and her mother disagreed.
Furthermore, she said, in the weeks before the murder her parents
had often argued, and her mother was seeking a divorce, which her
father did not want to grant.
During her third day on the witness stand on Monday, Fatima Alhimidi
said she had not initially suspected her father, believing the
killing was related to the note. But months later, she began to
suspect him in part after he refused to discuss with her an
interview he had with police.
"There was more to it. I thought he did it, there were a couple
questions he wouldn't answer," she said.
El Cajon is in the heart of east San Diego County, which is home to
the second-largest Iraqi community in the United States, behind
Detroit. More than half of El Cajon's 100,000 residents are of
Middle Eastern descent.
(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)
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