Shaima Alawadi's Family Asks “Why?”

Shaima Alawadi moved into the rental home with her family two months ago

In their grief, an El Cajon family speaks publicly for the first time about the loss of their mother in what may be a brutal hate crime.

"My little sisters they ask me, they're like 'Where's Mom, you know I miss her,'" Mohammed Alhimidi told NBC News Tuesday night before the memorial for his mother, 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi.

Alawadi was discovered beaten in the dining room of the family's rental home on Skyview Street March 21 along with a threatening note that referred to the family as "terrorists" and told them to "go home."

Alawadi suffered a severe head injury and was removed from life support three days later.

Overcome with grief, Kassim Alhimidi, now a single father of five, clung tightly to his wife's body as it lay inside the Islamic Center of Lakeside during a memorial Tuesday afternoon.

Mohammed, who translated for his father, spoke about the note left on the door of the family's home the day his sister found his mother seriously injured.

"It said 'This is my country, go back to yours, terrorist,'" Mohammed said.

"We found the note and when we read it we were shocked because we really never experienced anything like that. We've never really actually had someone go through their time, write a note and tape it on our front door."

Alawadi's husband says he thought the note was threat and wanted to call police but Shaima  convinced him it was prank.

He says that decision cost his wife her life.

They say Alawadi was the backbone of the family who has never harmed anyone and they're trying to understand the circumstances surrounding her death.

"The main question we would like to ask is 'What are you getting out of this and why did you do it?'," Mohammed asked.

El Cajon homicide detectives are working with the FBI to determine if the beating death of Alawadi was a hate crime or something else.

Leaders in the Islamic community have stressed they are not jumping to any conclusion and saying this is a hate crime, they are waiting on investigators.

Alawadi's father is Sayed Nabeel Alawadi, a Shiite cleric in Iraq, a Muslim leader in Michigan told the Detroit Free-Press.

Hayder Al-Zayadi, a family friend, told the Free-Press that Alawadi moved to the United States in 1993 with her family and was part of a wave of Shiite Muslim refugees who fled to Michigan after Saddam Hussein cracked down on an uprising in 1991.

After living in Dearborn for a few years, she moved to the San Diego area in 1996, graduated from high school and became a housewife raising five children, Al-Zayadi said.

Approximately 50-60,000 Middle Eastern immigrants and refugees reside in El Cajon.

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