Husband of murdered Iraqi woman sentenced in California to 26 years to life

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

A California judge has sentenced an Iraqi immigrant to 26 years-to-life in prison for his wife's fatal beating, which initially drew international condemnation when authorities believed it was a hate crime.

Kassim Alhimidi yelled out in English "I swear I am not guilty!" before his sentencing in San Diego County Superior Court on Monday.

The 50-year-old was given 25-years to life for the killing and an additional year for using a weapon. Prosecutors say it was possibly a tire iron.

Investigators initially believed the killing was a hate crime because of a note found nearby that read: "This is my country, go back to yours, you terrorist."

The killing was condemned by Muslim community leaders in the United States and Iraq before lab tests determined the note was a photocopy.

The sentencing Monday follows an emotional trial. Alhimidi shook his head and wagged his finger when jurors delivered the guilty verdict in April. His oldest son shouted obscenities and proclaimed his father's innocence before several deputies wrestled him out of the courtroom. Another son also shouted in his father's defense, while the victim's mother said in Arabic that Alhimidi deserved worse, according to an official court translator.

"In Iraq, normally if he kills her, he is supposed to be killed in the same way," Rehima Alhussanwi told reporters through the translator after Alhimidi's conviction in April.

The couple's eldest daughter found Alawadi, 32, in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor in March 2012, and she died two days later, suffering from multiple fractures to her head. A note found nearby read: "This is my country, go back to yours, you terrorist," setting off a hate-crime investigation.

Prosecutors indicated the note may have been planted by Alhimidi to steer the investigation away from him.

They say Alhimidi killed the mother of five because she wanted to divorce him and move to Texas. They argued Alhimidi lied to police about his troubled marriage and apologized to his wife as she lay dying in a hospital.

Defense lawyers said there is no forensic evidence against Alhimidi and that he loved his wife and was not a violent man. They say he also returned from Iraq after burying his wife there when he could have stayed in his homeland and avoided prosecution.

Alhimidi claimed he was not home at the time of the killing and may have been driving the couple's other children to school.

Alhimidi had three daughters and two sons by his wife. The family immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1990s.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.