An El Cajon man accused of killing his wife appeared in court Tuesday, pleading not guilty and denying the charge against him.
Al-Himidi appeared Thursday for his arraignment in El Cajon as his children watched the proceedings. In addition to a first-degree murder charge, Al-Himidi also faces an allegation of use of a deadly weapon not involved in the committing of the crime.
On March 21, Alawadi – an Iraqi immigrant -- was found bloodied, beaten and unconscious inside her home in the 500 block of Skyview Street. Her 17-year-old daughter, Fatima, found her on the floor of their dining room with an allegedly suspicious note nearby.
Alawadi’s family claimed the note called them “terrorists.”
Alawadi succumbed to her critical injuries three days later.
The local mother’s death reverberated across the nation. El Cajon police detectives later said the killing was an isolated incident and records suggested Alawadi’s death may have not been a hate crime.
"After months of hard work, we determined that this homicide was a result of domestic violence," El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redman said Friday.
Redman added that besides Al-Himidi, there are no other suspects or arrests in Alawadi’s death at this time.
He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted. He is not eligible for bail because he's considered a flight risk.
The prosecutor in court on Tuesday said the case is complicated and thoroughly investigated. He did not elaborate on the reasons why he believes Al-Himidi committed the crime, though.
Speaking from jail on Friday, Al-Himidi told NBC 7 that he doesn’t know why he was arrested. He claims he is innocent, and doesn’t understand why anyone thinks he killed his wife.
“[An investigator] tells me, ‘You’re guilty.’ I tell him, ‘Why am I guilty?’ I don’t know,” said Al-Himidi.
English is Al-Himidi’s second language so he claimed he didn’t understand all of NBC 7’s questions during the jailhouse interview. He did, however, state over and over again that he isn’t guilty.
“I am not guilty. I am swear not guilty,” he repeated time and time again.
He said he has cooperated with police during the past seven months since his wife was found dead. He said every time police asked him to go to the station for questioning he would go. Only this last time, they arrested him.
The father of five still maintains his wife’s death could’ve been a hate crime.
He claims he found a threatening note before his wife’s death addressed to his family, telling them to go back to Iraq. Al-Himidi also said there was someone suspicious around his home around that time, although he didn’t elaborate.
Although search warrants filed by El Cajon police revealed problems within Alawadi’s family, Al-Himidi said he and his wife had normal couple problems like everyone else.
Despite their family issues, he said he would’ve never killed her.
“I don’t know. I don’t know why I am guilty. I need a lawyer now. I need help…I need help,” he said. "[In] every family, you have a problem. You need not marry me anymore, go gone, no problem. Shaima no need me, go, bye. Why? I like my life. I have five kids.”
Al-Himidi said support for his family changed quickly after the search warrants filed police revealed problems in his family.
“Wife and daughter, they have problems. Husband and wife, they have problems. Maybe that’s why. Before, everybody was with me. After the computer everybody change,” he added.
Al-Himidi said police didn’t tell him they found any DNA evidence linking him to the homicide. He said they just told him his van was seen in front of the El Cajon home during the time of Alawadi’s death.
Still, he said he had no reason to kill his wife.
After her death he immediately traveled to Iraq to bury Alawadi. He returned to the U.S. two weeks later and said he came back because he had nothing to hide.
“I go anywhere. Why I stay here? I am not guilty,” he said.
Following his arrest, the couple’s minor children were taken into protective custody. When asked about his kids, Al-Himidi broke down, saying he hasn’t spoken with them since his arrest.
Al-Himidi is currently being held at San Diego Central Jail on one count of first-degree murder. He’s scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.