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Husband pleads not guilty in slaying of Iraqi immigrant

Kassim Al-Himidi wipes his tears after a memorial for his wife, Shaima Alawadi, at the Islamic Center of Lakeside in March. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

The husband of an Iraqi immigrant pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder charge in her death, as the couple's teenage daughter fled the courtroom in tears.

Kassim Al-Himidi, 48, was ordered held without bail after entering his plea in the bludgeoning of his wife, Shaima Alawadi, 32.

Alawadi, a mother of five, was found bloody and unconscious in the family's home in El Cajon, east of San Diego, on March 21. She died three days later.

A note near her body suggested the killing might be a hate crime, but investigators eventually concluded that it was a case of domestic violence.

The couple's 18-year-old daughter, Fatima, who found her mother's body, left the El Cajon courtroom in tears after the brief hearing.

Superior Court Judge Herbert Exarhos agreed with Deputy Dist. Atty. Kurt Mechals that Al-Himidi should be held without bail.

"We fear there is a possibility that if he were to post bail, he would flee to Iraq," Mechals said.

A readiness hearing was set for Nov. 20 to further discuss the possibility of bail and whether Al-Himidi should be required to relinquish his passport. Father and daughter went to Iraq for Alawadi's burial.

Mechals declined to discuss what evidence led El Cajon police to seek charges against Al-Himidi, except to say that investigators spent "a huge amount of time trying to determine if this was a hate crime or a domestic violence murder."

Court records indicate that Alawadi was considering divoring her husband and moving to Texas to be with relatives.

A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 28. Al-Himidi was arrested Thursday after obeying a request by police to come to the police station to discuss the case.

Members of the family declined to talk to reporters. "The family is looking for justice for their mother, and they believe the El Cajon police and the legal system will sort it out," Mechals said.

The couple moved to the United States in the mid-1990s and had lived in Dearborn, Mich., and El Cajon, both major centers for immigrants from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.

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--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Kassim Al-Himidi wipes his tears after a memorial for his wife, Shaima Alawadi, at the Islamic Center of Lakeside in March. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times
 
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