Iraqi man goes on trial in fatal beating of wife

EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) - Two years after an Iraqi woman's fatal beating in her California home drew international attention, the weapon remains missing but prosecutors say other evidence proves her husband killed her.

Kassim Alhimidi wailed Tuesday during opening statements of his trial on a charge of murdering his wife, Shaima Alawadi, on March 21, 2012, prompting the San Diego County judge to halt proceedings briefly.

Prosecutor Kurt Mechals told jurors that local and federal police investigated the death initially as a hate crime because of a note found near her body, but street camera footage and the information from the couple's eldest daughter about a troubled marriage led police to Alhimidi.

Defense attorney Douglas Gilliland said no blood was found on Alhimidi, who has cooperated with authorities.

The killing of Kassim Alhimidi's wife in California drew international attention after their daughter said she found a note by her Iraqi mother's bludgeoned body that read: "Go back to your country, you terrorist."

Police, however, later said lab tests determined the note they found was a photocopy, and the evidence pointed to Alhimidi as the only suspect in the killing of his 32-year-old wife, Shaima Alawadi, who was contemplating a divorce.

Alhimidi pleaded not guilty, and lawyers on both sides of the case are scheduled to deliver opening statements Tuesday in San Diego County Superior Court in El Cajon. The San Diego suburb where the killing occurred is home to one of the largest enclaves of Iraqi immigrants in the United States.

Defense attorney Richard Berkon Jr. noted in previous hearings that no blood or glass was found on Alhimidi's body or clothing, or in his car. Berkon 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.

After deciding to send the case to trial, Superior Court Judge Lantz Lewis said the most persuasive evidence was street-camera footage that indicates Alhimidi might have driven a short distance from home on the fateful morning of March 21, 2012, and parked his car - contradicting his story to investigators that he had gone for a drive to relax.

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 the vehicle an hour later.

The Muslim woman, who wore a headscarf, was found by her eldest daughter in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor with her body tangled in a computer cord and desk chair. She had multiple skull fractures from blunt force and died two days after the attack. A sliding glass door was shattered.

Detectives found documents in Alawadi's car indicating the mother of five planned to seek a divorce.

Berkon questioned why Alhimidi would choose to kill his wife when their 17-year-old daughter was upstairs, sleeping.

The defense attorney also pointed out in previous hearings that Alhimidi cooperated with police throughout the investigation, even voluntarily returning from Iraq after burying his wife in their homeland.


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