The daughter of an El Cajon man accused in the beating death of his wife is upset about allegations that she may have been involved in the killing according to her attorney.
Fatima Al-Himidi, 19, testified Thursday about finding her mother's beaten body in the family’s home. The shocking crime was initially believed to be a hate crime.
The teenager was home when Shaima Alawadi, 32, was beaten in a violent attack on March 21, 2012.
It was her voice that jurors heard Wednesday when the 911 call was played in court as part of opening statements in the trial of Kassim Al-Himidi.
Al-Himidi, a 49-year-old Iraqi immigrant, is accused of beating his wife, Alawadi, to death after she asked for a divorce.
Attorney Ron Rockwell spoke exclusively to NBC 7 and described Fatima as an intelligent young woman who has struggled emotionally in the two years since her mother’s death.
“There are days when she tries to block this whole thing out, just frankly for survival,” Rockwell said outside the county courthouse in El Cajon.
“She’s had the most difficult time with the press which in some cases has been devastating if not cruel to her and her brothers and sisters,” he said.
Rockwell has represented Fatima and a friend of hers over the years and said his client has visited her father while he's been in custody on murder charges.
When asked if Fatima believes her father committed the crime, Rockwell refused to answer.
“It’s a very, very sad time,” he said. “Her father is on trial for the murder of her mother. For that reason, she’s devastated.”
Because the defense strategy may try to direct blame toward Fatima, Rockwell said he asked the district attorney for immunity for his client. The DA refused the request, he said.
In the defense opening remarks, Al-Himidi’s defense attorney told jurors about Fatima’s relationship with a Chaldean boyfriend and the problems that caused in her Muslim family.
He also described a suicide attempt by the teenager after she had been found in a parked car with 21-year-old Rawnaq Yacub.
Officers contacted Alawadi, who went to the incident location. As Alwadi was driving her daughter away from the area when Fatima said "I love you mom," then jumped out of the car while it was moving at 35 mph.
NBC 7 obtained warrants in the investigation that suggest Fatima was upset about the family's plan to have her marry one of her cousins.
On Thursday, an El Cajon police officer who acted as a translator on the day Alawadi was found beaten testified that Fatima had accepted a promise ring while in Iraq. The officer said that when the family returned to the U.S. the daughter had changed her mind.
Fatima has not been charged in the case. She has testified at the preliminary hearing and was called again to testify in the trial.
Prosecutors allege that Kassim Al-Himidi killed his wife because he was angry over an impending divorce.
Defense attorneys dispute that theory and point to lack of blood evidence connecting their client to the crime scene.
San Diegans will recall the high-profile case because it was initially believed to be a hate crime after first-responders found a note in the home that read, "This is my country, go back to yours, terrorist."
The family – which includes as many as five children – moved into the rented home in El Cajon about two months before the beating.
Fatima took the stand in court Thursday and testified about the arranged marriage her parents had planned for her, but that she didn’t want. She said their disagreement over this created tension at home, but that tension decreased over time and eventually the issue went away.
The teen also recalled how her mother wanted a divorce from Al-Himidi, testifying, “My mom couldn’t stand him. She was sick of it.”
According to Fatima, when her mother refused to sleep with her father, he would allegedly withhold money from the family.
Fatima said the impending divorce became a big issue at home in February and March of 2012. She said her mother ultimately obtained divorce papers because Al-Himidi refused to agree to the divorce. Fatima said her parents would constantly argue about the divorce and Al-Himidi would get angry.
She said they couldn’t stand each other.
The teen also testified about the day she found her mother’s beaten, bloodied body.
Fatima said she was upstairs in her room when she heard a low moan, then something breaking downstairs, but she didn’t think much of it. Shortly thereafter, she heard glass breaking and she thought it may have been a plate breaking in the kitchen because her mother was cooking.
Fatima then went downstairs and found her mother face down on the ground with a chair on top of her, she testified.
The teen, visibly emotional on the stand, said she saw a lot of blood near her mother’s head and around her. She then realized something very bad had happened and called 911.
At this point during Thursday’s testimony, the court took a break and the teen left the room crying.
She returned to the stand just before 4 p.m. and continued to give her emotional testimony.
The teen said that during the 911 call she kept asking trying to talk to her mom, asking if she could hear her. She then rolled her over and saw even more blood.
Fatima said she then noticed a broken window and shattered glass, as if someone had broken into the home. She said she didn’t see anyone come in or out of that broken window. Fatima also recalled the police finding the note that mentioned the word “terrorist.”
She said she never personally looked at the note and didn’t mention it in her call to 911 because she didn’t notice it until later.
Fatima also testified about a note found a week or so prior to her mother’s beating. She said that note was found handwritten on what looked like printer paper, written in blue ink. The paper was crumbled and had creases. That note, too, was hateful, and the teen said it made her angry.
Towards the end of her testimony, Fatima also talked about how she went to live with her aunt after her mother’s death and traveled to Iraq to bury her mom.
She also talked about the moment she learned her father had allegedly thrown something out of his car – a piece of metal and some shoes – on the day Alawadi was found critically injured because he was scared that police would blame him for the crime.
Court wrapped around 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Fatima is scheduled to take the stand again Friday when court resumes at 9 a.m.