SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The trial of an Iraqi-American man accused of murdering his wife, a killing first investigated as a hate crime, resumed on Tuesday with investigators saying the victim was found on the floor near a computer, with a mouse cable tangled in her legs.
About 30 minutes earlier Shaima Alawadi appeared to have been online using instant messaging, said a police investigator.
The high-profile trial of Kassim Alhimidi opened on Monday in San Diego with the 49-year-old defendant wailing in court as prosecutors played a recording of his daughter’s call for emergency help after she discovered her mother bloodied on the kitchen floor of their home.
Alhimidi’s 19-year-old daughter, Fatima, had been expected to take the stand on Wednesday to testify about finding her mother bludgeoned and dying. But her testimony was delayed as police investigators and a computer forensics expert testified about their findings.
Alawadi, a 32-year-old stay-at-home mother of five, was bludgeoned at her home in suburban El Cajon, California, on March 21, 2012, and died of her injuries several days later.
At 10:41 a.m. that day Alawadi appears to have spent two minutes logging onto Yahoo, which she used for instant messaging, said Detective David Iorillo of the San Diego Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory.
At 11:10 a.m., Fatima Alhimidi called emergency responders after finding her mother laying on the floor near the computer, with the mouse cable tangled in her legs, El Cajon Fire Department paramedic Kyle Kleinschmidt told the court.
Fatima Alhimidi told police at the time she heard her mother squeal, followed by the sound of breaking glass, which she took to be her mother dropping a plate.
Police initially investigated the killing as a possible hate crime because of a note found at the scene. The U.S. State Department expressed condolences for her death and Iraqi government officials attended her funeral in Iraq.
On Tuesday, El Cajon police detective Christopher Baldwin testified that a male relative of Alawadi contacted police from Texas to tell them he suspected either the father or the daughter’s boyfriend.
Prosecutors say they believe Kassim Alhimidi beat his wife to death with a tire iron, possibly taken from a family car, because she was seeking a divorce. Defense lawyers have argued that there is no forensic evidence linking him to the crime.
Three tire irons were found in Alhimidi’s car but all tested negative for blood, El Cajon Police Department Forensic Evidence Technician Tara Fruchtenicht testified.
According to a search warrant affidavit filed by police last April, a relative of Alawadi told detectives she had been planning on divorcing her husband and moving to Texas. Divorce papers were found in her car.
El Cajon is in the heart of east San Diego County, which is home to the second-largest Iraqi community in the United States, behind Detroit. More than half of El Cajon’s 100,000 residents are of Middle Eastern descent.
Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Michael Perry