An audio tape obtained by Fox News sheds new light into the 2009 murder of an Iraqi-born woman who was killed in Arizona after her father drove over her in what police believe was an honor killing.
According to the tape, as Noor Al-Maleki, 20, clung to life in intensive care, Peoria police believed that her father, Faleh Al-Maleki, had targeted her for an honor killing – and that other members of her family might try to kill her in her hospital bed.
The audio tape records a telephone conversation between Seham Al-Maleki – Noor’s mother – and Peoria police detective Bill Laing. In it Laing informs Seham that her husband had run down Noor and her friend Amal Khalaf with his Jeep Cherokee, as the two women were leaving an Arizona welfare office. The incident occurred on October 20, 2009 in a parking lot in Peoria, a suburb of Phoenix.
The tape was obtained by Fox News as part of an 8-month-long investigation into Al-Maleki’s killing, which will be the focus of a one-hour program, Fox News Reporting: A Question of Honor, is hosted by Bill Hemmer that premieres on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET.
“I want to see my daughter!” Seham Al-Maleki screams on the tape.
“Until he [Noor’s father] is located, we are not mentioning where she is at,” responds Laing, who told the mother that witnesses in the parking lot identified her husband as the driver.
“This woman, she is lying, because she is dirty,” Seham says, referring to Noor’s friend Khalaf, who survived being hit by Al-Maleki’s jeep.
“You are a sick person,” Laing snaps.
Al-Maleki fled while his daughter was taken to the hospital, in critical condition. Seham was eventually allowed into the hospital to see her daughter, who was removed from life support on November 2, 2009.
Mohamed El-Sharkawy, a member of The Arizona Muslim Police Advisory Board confirmed to Fox News that the Peoria police worried another family member would try to kill her, too.
“They were afraid that -- because he did not succeed, that somebody else, his son or a relative, will go and finish the job,” said El-Sharkawy, who was called in to the investigation after Noor was run down.
Al-Maleki reached the United Kingdom before he was captured and extradited back to the U.S. and charged with murder. No other family member was ever charged in the case.
An honor killing is a crime that is almost invariably focused on women. It occurs when a husband, father, or brother murders a wife, daughter or sister because she is believed to have shamed the family.
The United Nations has found that honor killings are all too common in Islamic countries. A number of recent assaults in the U.S. have some in law enforcement worried the practice may be spreading to America.
Prior to the deadly incident at the Arizona welfare office, police investigators say Noor refused to go along with an arranged marriage to a relative in Iraq.
At Al-Maleki’s trial, Maricopa Deputy County attorney Laura Reckart argued that this was indeed an honor killing – committed on American soil, meriting a guilty verdict on the charge of first-degree murder.
To try to prove her theory she played tapes of Al-Maleki’s police interrogation as well as recorded prison phone calls in which he and his wife discuss how “an Iraqi without honor is nothing” and lament that while Faleh is suffering in jail, Noor “is comfortable now” in her grave.
Fox News obtained those tapes as well for its report.
Defense attorneys dismissed the idea that Al-Maleki intended to kill his daughter. On February 22, 2011 the jury – in a defeat for the prosecution -- found Al-Maleki not guilty of first degree murder, although it did convict him of murder in the second degree.
Jury foreman Jeff Van der Zweep, in his first-ever television interview, told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer that the jurors didn’t agree on whether Al-Maleki’s attack on his daughter was premeditated – and motivated, as the prosecution argued, by a twisted sense of honor.
“The jury was split on whether he was angry at his daughter and he just saw her and-- and-- in his anger, killed her, or if it was for honor,” Van der Zweep said.
Maricopa County Judge Roland Steinle – who sentenced Al-Maleki to 34 ½ years -- told Fox News that it was wrong to call the crime an honor killing.
“I think it sensationalizes what is nothing more than a parent killing a child,” Steinle told Hemmer in an exclusive interview.
Reckart – saying she “failed Noor” -- told Hemmer the jury got it wrong.
“I'm not going to say I respect their verdict,” she said.
Reckart recently spoke at a conference focusing on the practice of honor killing spreading to the United States and she may be teaching about Honor Killing as a motive in the fall.
Tune into Fox News Reporting: A Question of Honor, hosted by Bill Hemmer at Sat 10pm ET.