SAN DIEGO -- An Iraqi immigrant was convicted Thursday of fatally beating his wife in their El Cajon home because she wanted a divorce.
The March 2012 case gained attention because a note left near the body suggested the attack was an anti-immigrant hate crime.
But prosecutors argued that Kassim Al-Himidi, 49, left the note to mislead investigators about the fatal beating of his wife, Shaima Alawadi, 32.
The couple had fled Iraq to escape from 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. Located east of San Diego, El Cajon has a large Middle Eastern immigrant population.
The jury in the El Cajon branch of the San Diego County Superior Court deliberated for parts of two days before finding Al-Himidi guilty of murder.
Al-Himidi did not testify during the trial. He wept openly at times and followed the proceeding with the help of an Arabic translator. He screamed when the jury’s verdict was read. He faces up to life in prison when sentenced.
The note, 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.
Alawadi was bludgeoned repeatedly, 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.
Documents found in the family vehicle indicated that Alawadi planned to divorce her husband and move to Texas to be with relatives.
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 until 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.