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Iraqi immigrant in US bludgeoned his wife to death: court

EL CAJON, California--A jury convicted an Iraqi immigrant Thursday of bludgeoning his wife to death in a case that was initially considered a hate crime.

Kassim Alhimidi, 49, shook his head from side to side as the verdict was read and chaos erupted in the courtroom as his oldest son stood and shouted obscenities. Alhimidi turned and yelled in Arabic. The son struggled with officers as he was removed.

The judge and the jury also left the courtroom before the hearing could conclude.

According to the official courtroom translator, Alhimidi shouted, “God knows and I attest to God that I am not the killer. I am innocent.”

After a brief recess the judge returned and scheduled sentencing for May 15.

Alhimidi faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the murder of his 32-year-old wife, Shaima Alawadi, at their house in El Cajon, home to one of the largest enclaves of Iraqi immigrants in the U.S.

Prosecutors argued Alhimidi lied to police about his troubled marriage and apologized to his wife as she lay dying in a hospital. Defense lawyers said Alhimidi loved his wife, that he was not a violent man and that he returned from Iraq after burying his wife there.

The couple's eldest daughter, then 17, found her mother in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor of their suburban San Diego home in March 2012, her body tangled in a computer cord and desk chair. She had multiple skull fractures from blunt force and died two days after the attack. A sliding glass door was shattered.

No murder weapon was found, but investigators said Alawadi, a strict Muslim, was apparently beaten with a tire iron.

Local and federal investigators first suspected a hate crime after a note was found near the body that read: “This is my country, go back to yours, you terrorist.” Lab tests determined 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.

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