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September 20, 2014

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Iraqi immigrant to be sentenced for wife’s beating death

EL CAJON, Calif. — An Iraqi immigrant convicted of beating his wife to death in what police initially believed was a hate crime could get life in prison at his sentencing scheduled for Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court.

Chaos broke out in the courtroom last month when Kassim Alhimidi was convicted of bludgeoning his wife with a tire iron at their El Cajon home in March 2012 because she planned to divorce him. Alhimidi wagged his finger and shook his head as the verdict was read, and his son was dragged from the courtroom while shouting out that his father was innocent.

Their eldest daughter, then 17, found Shaima Alawadi, 32, in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. She died two days later.

A sliding glass door was shattered and a note found nearby read: "This is my country, go back to yours, you terrorist."

Investigators initially suspected the attack was a hate crime before determining that the note was a photocopy — possibly of a note found outside the family home a week earlier by one of the couple's five children.

Prosecutors told the San Diego County jury during a two-week trial that Alhimidi was distraught over his wife's plans to leave him and had urged his children and relatives to get her to stay. Detectives found documents in Alawadi's car indicating she planned to seek a divorce, and the eldest daughter, Fatima, told investigators that her mother wanted to move to Texas to be with her sister.

After the attack, Alhimidi went to the hospital, touched his wife as she lay unconscious in bed, and apologized to her, prosecutor Kurt Mechals said. An uncle of the children who was present told authorities that Alhimidi then turned to him and said that if his wife woke up, she might try to say that he had attacked her.

The prosecutor read jurors computer messages that the woman had sent to relatives that said: "I do not love him" and "I cannot stand him."

Defense lawyers said Alhimidi loved his wife, wasn't a violent man, and that he could have stayed in Iraq after her burial but returned to the U.S. and cooperated with police until his arrest nearly eight months later.

"This man has never once raised a hand to Shaima," attorney Richard Berkon Jr. told the jury.

The case split the family.

After a jury convicted Alhimidi of murder last month, his oldest son stood, shouted obscenities and proclaimed his father's innocence before several deputies wrestled him out of the courtroom. Another son also shouted in his father's defense, while the victim's mother, Rehima Alhussanwi, said Alhimidi deserved worse.

The eldest daughter, Fatima, issued a statement that said: "Although we love our father, we also hate what we believe he did."

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