An Iraqi immigrant was sentenced Monday to 26 years to life in prison for the 2012 bludgeon slaying of his wife in their El Cajon home.
Kassim Al-Himidi, 50, left a note near the body to mislead investigators into thinking that the fatal beating of his wife, Shaima Alawadi, 32, was an anti-immigrant hate crime, prosecutors said.
Still loudly protesting his innocence, Al-Himidi told Judge William McGrath at the sentencing Monday that he would prefer to be executed so his body could be returned to his native Iraq.
Documents found in the family vehicle indicated that Alawadi planned to divorce her husband and move to Texas to be with relatives.
The couple had fled Iraq to escape Saddam Hussein's regime in the mid-1990s. After living in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia for two years they went to Dearborn, Mich., and then to El Cajon. East of San Diego, El Cajon has a large Middle Eastern immigrant population.
Al-Himidi did not testify during the April trial in the El Cajon branch of the San Diego County Superior Court. He wept openly at times and followed the proceeding with the help of an Arabic translator. He screamed in protest when the jury's guilty verdict was read.
Alawadi, the mother of five children, was bludgeoned, possibly with a tire iron, according to prosecutors. She was found by her daughter and rushed to a hospital. She was taken off life support three days later.
The note found near Alawadi's body, referring to the family as terrorists and containing the warning "this is my country. Go back to yours terrorists," was found by the couple's teenage daughter Fatima. Al-Himidi insisted that the attack occurred while he was taking the couple's four younger children to school.
During the trial, prosecutors introduced video from security cameras that contradicted Al-Himidi's version of what time he took his children to school. A security video also suggested that a vehicle like Al-Himidi's was parked around the corner from the family home minutes before the attack.
The investigation took seven months before charges were brought against Al-Himidi. Al-Himidi accompanied his wife's body for burial in Iraq in the holy city of Najaf, where her father is a prominent Shia cleric.
The Iraqi government urged the U.S. to find the killer and bring him to justice.