While an Iraqi immigrant accused of killing his wife awaits trial, his defense attorney said the lack of forensic evidence makes the case a true "whodunit."
Alawadi – an Iraqi immigrant -- was found unconscious, lying in a pool of blood in her dining room in the family's home on Skyview Street in El Cajon.
Near her beaten body investigators found a note that said 'This is my country, go back to your country... terrorist'.
Despite the determination by El Cajon police that the murder wasn’t a hate crime, Al-Himidi’s defense attorney is not convinced.
“Somebody put that note there, and Mr. Al-Himidi does not read nor write English so he didn't stage it, and that note was found next to his wife's body,” said attorney Richard Berkon.
After his wife's death, Al-Himidi immediately traveled to Iraq to bury his wife but returned to the U.S. two weeks later.
Seven months later, El Cajon homicide detectives arrested Al-Himidi on first-degree murder charges.
Al-Himidi has said he is innocent of the crime and returned to the U.S. because he had nothing to hide.
Berkon talked with NBC 7 on Wednesday about the case and what he described as the lack of forensic evidence.
Berkon said homicide investigators took Al-Himidi’s clothes, examined his body and looked for the presence of blood and glass dust from a broken sliding glass door. The defense attorney said investigators found no evidence linking Al-Himidi to the crime.
He also said detectives used two different types of tests to search for blood in the defendant’s van but found none.
“It was a very bloody crime scene and it would be hard to imagine somebody that took part in that did not have some blood on them, some glass if they broke that window and there’s none on Mr. Al-Himidi,” Berkon said.
Prosecutors have said the evidence against Al-Himidi speaks for itself.
Alawadi's 17-year-old daughter, Fatima, was home the morning of the attack and said she heard a squeal and glass shattering. When she came downstairs, she saw her mother's feet near the kitchen entry and blood on the floor. She called 911.
Fatima testified at a pre-trial hearing that her parents' marriage started experiencing trouble in August 2011. Things really got bad in January, she said.
Her mother had planned to get a divorce and move to Texas, Fatima said. She testified that her father saw the divorce papers and laughed at her mother. She said her mother was furious that he wasn't taking her seriously.
Then after her mother's death, Fatima testified she heard Al-Himidi say he had thrown objects out of his van "shoes and a metal thing."
Records obtained by NBC7 revealed that Alawadi was having problems with her husband and daughter.
Warrants also show that the victim's daughter Fatima was upset about the family's plan to have her marry one of her cousins.
Records also show a neighbor gave police a description of a possible suspect spotted running from the crime scene. The suspect was described as a "darker skinned boy in his late teens or early 20s … with a skinny build, carrying a donut shaped cardboard box." He was seen at 10:30 a.m., about 45 minutes before Alawadi's daughter called 911.
Berkon said investigators did look into speculation that Fatima’s relationship with a Chaldean teenager may have been connected to Alawadi’s death. He said it’s one of many theories the defense is considering.
Al-Himidi's attorney requested a delay in the trial initially scheduled to begin in January to allow time for criminal experts to look at the evidence.
A new trial date is set for March 23. Testimony is expected to last 2 to 3 weeks.
Because of her immigration status, Alawadi's death reverberated across the nation until El Cajon police detectives later said the killing was an isolated incident.