EL CAJON - An Iraqi immigrant snuck up on his wife and beat her to death in their El Cajon home after she asked for a divorce, a prosecutor said Tuesday, but the defendant's attorney said there was no physical evidence linking his client to the killing.
Kassim Alhimidi, 49, is charged with murder in the March 2012 death of 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi, also an Iraqi immigrant and mother of their five children.
Deputy District Attorney Kurt Mechals said in his opening statement that a week before the March 21, 2012, attack, Alawadi had emailed a friend, saying she didn't love the defendant and "couldn't stand him."
"She was done. The defendant knew it and he couldn't do anything about it," Mechals told the jury.
The prosecutor alleged that Alhimidi came up from behind his wife as she sat at a computer near the kitchen and hit her in the head with some kind of object -- possibly a tire iron -- knocking her out of her chair.
Alawadi was hit at least six times in the head and died three days later from brain trauma, Mechals said.
The couple's then-17-year-old daughter, Fatima, 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.
Alhimidi sobbed and wailed as Mechals played a 911 tape of Fatima describing how she found her mother's bloodied body, prompting Judge William McGrath to call a recess.
Fatima thought her mother had fallen, but paramedics first on the scene said blood and other evidence was inconsistent with a fall.
A photocopied note found near the victim read, "This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist," leading investigators to initially believe Alawadi's killing may have been a hate crime, Mechals said.
At the same time, detectives were questioning the defendant, who said he had gone for a drive during the time his wife was killed.
Alhimidi initially said his relationship with his wife was fine, but later admitted that she had been threatening divorce, according to the prosecutor. A tire iron was missing from one of their cars and divorce papers were found under the seat, Mechals said.
At the hospital, the defendant touched his wife and asked for forgiveness, Mechals said.
Alhimidi also told a relative, "If she wakes up, she might claim I did this to her," the prosecutor told the jury.
Defense attorney Douglas Gilliland told the jury that the couple had ongoing marital problems but always reconciled because of the children.
Gilliland said Alhimidi loved his wife and no history of domestic violence toward her.
Alhimidi cannot account for an hour of time the morning of the murder, but had nothing to do with the homicide, his attorney said.
The defendant had no blood on him when questioned after the killing, nor was any glass from a broken sliding glass door found on him, Gilliland said.
The attorney said Alhimidi sought forgiveness after his wife's death, as is the custom in the Muslim culture.
Gilliland said family members on the victim's side want Alhimidi convicted.
The attorney said police questioned the defendant for more than seven months before getting an unsolicited call in November 2012 from Fatima saying "My dad did it."
Alhimidi was arrested the next day. He faces 26 years to life in prison if convicted.