Iraqi man murders wife in previously believed ‘hate crime’ case in U.S.

The jury initially thought the incident was a hate crime after the husband left a note to confuse investigators

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A U.S. jury found an Iraqi man guilty Thursday of beating his wife to death in their California home because she wanted a divorce, in what was initially thought to be a hate crime.

Kassim Alhimidi, 49, was convicted of first-degree murder for killing 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi.

The jury had deliberated for a day and a half over its verdict.

Initially, police suspected the March 2012 killing was a hate crime after finding a note near the body saying: "This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist."

But they subsequently alleged Alhimidi wrote it to confuse investigators.

Upon hearing the verdict, the couple's oldest son, Mohammed, stood up and screamed out profanities.

"My dad is innocent; he was tried unfairly," he said, before being escorted out.

Prosecutors said Alhimidi killed his wife -- a mother of five -- by hitting her at least six times in the head with a blunt object as she sat at a computer.

Alhimidi said he was out at the time, but surveillance cameras and a neighbor contradicted his claim.

Alawadi was taken off life support three days after her teenage daughter found her unconscious in their home near San Diego following an "absolutely brutal beating."

Alhimidi claimed he was innocent, in an exchange in court in Arabic with the victim's mother.

"God knows, and I attest to God, that I am not the killer. I'm innocent," he said, according to the court interpreter.

His mother-in-law said she did not believe him.

"What I said in the courtroom is... if you killed her, you deserve to be killed, as well," she told reporters outside after the proceedings.

Alhimidi is due to be sentenced on May 15, and could face up to 26 years in prison.

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