Murder of Iraqi-American Woman May Not Have Been a Hate Crime

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Search warrants in the case of Iraqi-American woman who was beaten to death last month suggest that there may be more to the story than just a case of anti-Muslim violence. According to court records obtained by the San Diego Union Tribune, the victim, Shaima Alawadi, was looking to divorce her husband and move to another state, while her 17-year-old daughter, Fatima, was also distraught about being forced to marry her cousin. Fatima Alawadi also reportedly received a crytpic text message shortly after the attack saying, "The detective will find out tell them (can’t) talk."

Investigators also learned of another incident that adds to the portrait of a family in trouble. Fatima was picked up by police last November after they responded to a report of two people having sex in a car and found the daughter in a car with a 21-year-old man. Her mother came to pick her up, but while driving home, Fatima threw herself out of the moving car at 35 m.p.h., breaking her arm. She reportedly told hospital staff that she was upset about the arranged marriage. 

Finally, police have determined that the key piece of evidence — a threatening note found next to the body telling the family to go back where they came from — was a photocopy and not the handwritten original. (The family did say they previously found a similar note outside their home, but did not save it.)

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While none of these details directly contradict the original theory that the killer was an outsider targeting the family because of bias against Muslims, they do suggest a wider range of other motives and the possibility that the note may have been a attempt to distract police from the real killer. Local police and the FBI have not commented on the ongoing investigation or these latest revelations, but have said that there are no suspects at the moment. They also wouldn't change the fact that there is real anti-Muslim hatred in this country and particularly in El Cajon where the crime occurred. But this is yet another reminder that as with many crimes, particularly those that play out in the public eye, it may difficult to ever piece together what really happened — and the truth is rarely what it first appears to be.

Both Fatima and her father  are in Iraq, where Shaima was buried last Saturday.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.