EL CAJON - An Iraqi immigrant who beat his wife to death in their El Cajon home after she asked for a divorce was sentenced today to 26 years to life in prison.
Kassim Alhimidi, 50, told Judge William McGrath that he would rather be sentenced to death and have his remains sent to Iraq.
"I am not guilty," the defendant told the judge via an Arabic translator. "I swear I am not guilty."
Prosecutor Kurt Mechals read a letter from Alhimidi's daughter, Fatima.
"How could you kill someone who was always there for you?" the letter read. "Mom lives with us every day, but you are the one who will be forgotten."
The couple's oldest son, Mohammed, who had screamed out profanities when the verdict of first-degree murder was announced two months ago, apologized to the judge today before making a statement.
"I basically just lost both my parents," he said, adding that he said he was close to both his mother and father and that his father had always loved his mother.
Mohammed said he felt like he was betraying his mother by forgiving his father.
"As much as I want to hate you, I can't," the son said to his father. "I do forgive you, man."
Outside court, he told reporters, "He's trying his best to make me believe him. 'Oh, I did not do it. I did not do it. I want you to believe me,' and sort of like begging me to believe him.”
The younger Alhimidi also spoke of sleepless nights.
"I still wake up at night and I cry just thinking about her and break down even more knowing that man I looked up to all my life was the reason why she's gone," he said.
While Mohammed was making his statement, Alhimidi started shouting that he was innocent. The judge tried to quiet him, but eventually ordered deputies to get him out of the courtroom. This comes after a brawl erupted in the courtroom during Alhimidi’s conviction. The judge decided not to allow cameras in the courtroom for the sentencing.
Police at first thought the killing of 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi, a mother of five, might be a hate crime. A photocopied note found near the victim said: "This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist."
Mechals said Alhimidi hit his wife in the head with a blunt object at least six times as she sat in front of a computer.
Alhimidi maintained that he was out for a drive on March 21, 2012, when his wife was killed. Video recovered by investigators, however, showed his van near the family home on Skyview Drive.
Fatima, then 17, told police she was upstairs when she heard a "squeal," then later what sounded like a broken plate downstairs around 11 a.m. the day her mother was attacked. A pane from a sliding glass door had been broken from the inside, Mechals said.
Fatima -- who had stayed home from school -- thought her mother had fallen, but paramedics first on the scene said blood and other evidence was inconsistent with a fall.
"What I saw scarred me for life," Fatima said in her letter.